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REVIEW: Dear White People

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Dear White People
Directed by: Justin Simien
Written by: Justin Simien
Starring: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris and Brandon P. Bell

In one of the many scenes of humiliation in Justin Simien’s Dear White People, the newly-elected head of the unofficial black student dorm tips over the white university president’s son’s plate in a dining hall and demands that he get out.  She says it’s because he doesn’t live there, and he isn’t used to not getting his way.  There’s obviously very intense racial tensions in the scene, but the ways in which the different groups within the school’s black community react to it make it, and the movie, more complex.

That dorm head, Sam (Tessa Thompson), is also the host of a campus radio show that gives the movie its title.   She uses “Dear White People” to speak a series of agitated open letters to the white students at the fictional Ivy League school Winchester University and the black students currently in power.  Although Simien’s movie climaxes at a racist “hip hop” themed party where a bunch of white students dress in blackface, before that it’s more interested in the divides within the black community on Winchester’s campus.

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