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Dear White People: Race relations in an Ivy League

The provocative campus radio show Dear White People intends to correct white people’s ignorance about black experience.

eOne Films

3 out of 4 stars

Written by
Justin Simien
Directed by
Justin Simien
Starring
Tessa Thompson, Brandon P Bell, Tyler James Williams, and Tevonah Farris
Country
USA
Language
English

The pitch on Dear White People is that it's "Do the Right Thing for the Obama generation," which is both an oversell and a disservice to Justin Simien's witty satire about race relations on a fictional Ivy League campus.

The subject is less about "white people" than four African-American students in the soon-to-be-integrated black student residence, struggling with the difference between their selves and their social personae.

The protagonist is the impassioned Angela Davis-like Sam White (Tessa Thompson), whose provocative campus radio show Dear White People is intended as a corrective to white people's fascinated ignorance about black experience. Gay outsider Lionel (Tyler James Williams) is all-too grateful to get an assignment to write about "black campus culture" for the student newspaper.

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The movie's villain is Kurt (Kyle Gallner), the smug editor of the school's Harvard Lampoon-like prestigious humour magazine, who, in response to Sam's provocations, stages a offensive "black face" party, which brings campus racial tensions to a climactic boil.

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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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