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MOVIES - Dear White People - Sundance 2014 - Review

Dear Readers... What can I say about writer / director Justin Simien's Dear White People? Confidently, I believe it's a smart and funny take on the concept of racism and identity, told from a black point of view. This biting satire is a refreshing exploration of young people finding their voice through a mire of societal expectations, as well as their own self-imposed ones.

At the ivy-league Winchester College, race-related tensions are high when the outspoken Sam (Tessa Thompson) is elected head of Parker/Armstrong, the only all-black residence hall on campus, a residence hall that will soon be "diversified" and lose its black identity. While Sam fights tooth and nail against this, several other students are drawn in, including the social misfit, Lionel (Tyler James Williams), aspiring celebrity, Coco (Teyonah Parris), and former student head of Parker / Armstrong, Troy (Brandon P. Bell). The campus drama reaches a peak when a party with an unsavory theme sheds light on all the controversy and causes students to re-examine their identities, both racial and beyond.

This is a well-shot film, using pans and interesting wider shots that grab the viewers' attention. The use of title cards and on-screen visuals, such as text message notifications, make Dear White People fun to watch. The music chosen for this film is also an unexpected treat. Traditional classical pieces, such as Carmen's Habanera, help give this film a timeless, undated feel, as well as supplement the ivy league school surroundings. The music and costuming help to make it seem that the events in this film could be occurring at anytime, which, in the reality of our country, they could be.

However, the heart of this film is in its cast and their portrayal of not black and white, but the grey uncertainty that comes with people exploring what is expected of them compared to what they expect of themselves. It's a story that has vast complexity. It's about black versus black versus white versus someone who doesn't know how to be black or white.

Dear White People is one of the most honest dialogues about racism I have ever seen, not favoring one point of view over the other, but presenting them all in a way that the audience is able to latch on to a character and experience the movie through their eyes. At its core, this is a story of individuals struggling with the decision of being who they are versus being who they think they should be versus being who other people think they should be.

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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