One of the most buzzed-about films at this past year’s Sundance Film Festival was Dear White People, Justin Simien’s provocative comedy about racial tensions at a prestigious university—both between whites and blacks and within the black community. A sort of update of Spike Lee’s School Daze, Simien’s film tackles African-American student organizations that struggle with how radical they should be, black students who don’t fit into any of the usual cliques (because they’re gay, or nerds, or both), and white fraternities that hold racially insensitive “hood parties” where their members dress and act like they’re in gangsta rap videos. It’s a movie with a lot on its mind, and soon(ish), non-Sundance-attendees will get to encounter it firsthand, since Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have picked the film up for distribution in the United States and Canada. No release date has been announced, but this would seem like a natural fit for an early fall opening, around the time school is back in session.
Not everyone at Sundance was wild about Dear White People. I found it fairly choppy, writing: “I loved the dialectical aspects of Dear White People, and would’ve gladly followed the main characters—a gay journalism student, a mixed-race firebrand, and the upper-class son of a dean—through a series of campus capers, perhaps in a TV series. But as a movie, Dear White People has too many story strands, sloppily woven together. And Simien’s really rough as a visual stylist.” That said, it’s a significant film, and I’m glad it’s going to be seen and not sit on a shelf.