Dear White People” is a refreshing movie that has a new take on black film and the portrayal of black people. The movie observes the realistic experiences of black college students who attend a predominately white university. The different characters in the film face the same struggle— identity issues with being a black face in a majority white place. The storyline variety gives characters different outlooks on how they encounter racism in contemporary American society. The main characters of this film, Sam, Troy, CoCo, and Lionel, have to overcome issues within themselves and fight for their belief in gaining equal respect for black people on their campus. Besides racial comfort lines being tested and crossed, this movie also has compelling love stories, historical messages, and several plot twists. The director, producer, and screenwriter of the new film, Justin Simien, is giving audiences a new lens to look through when it comes to the modern day life of black college student. The film was inspired by Simien’s college experience at Chapman University in Orange County, Ca. Simien says, “There were very few black people on a mostly white campus and it caused me and my friends to toggle with our identities. We wanted to find somewhere where we felt we belonged on campus and the film captures those struggles.” In college, Simien was a part of Black Student Union, and his university newspaper however his main focus was on his filmmaking career. In a phone interview with The Herald, Simien discusses how audiences are reacting towards his film, the types of criticism he is facing, and how future film makers should get a start at their career.
Xavier Herald: Why should people go and see your film?
Justin Simien: People should see the movie because it is different and honestly because it is great. This movie is giving a different point of view of the black experience similar to Spike Lee. I think audiences miss viewing films like that. The movie shows how characters walk through a world where people already make assumptions before they open their mouths. Realizations like that are always going to spark great conversation.
XH: How do you think/want audiences of different races to perceive your film?
JS: I want everyone to grasp the concept that this is a film about identity struggles. There is a moment in everyone’s life when they struggle with identifying themselves with their family, friends, and schools. This film is showing identity struggle through a black lens, which makes it different from what everyone else is used to seeing.
XH: What types of criticism are you facing right now for what some would call a controversial film?
JS: I don’t believe the film is controversial; it is just provocative. But so far I have been receiving positive reviews of the movie and audiences are praising the new point of view that is telling the story of all the characters.
XH: For students at Xavier who are interested in screen writing, producing, and directing like yourself, what would you advise them to do to have a successful career?
JS: Find a story that you want to tell and that you are very passionate about and then run with it. Just don’t take no for an answer because there will be many doors slammed in your face. There were moments where I was told that this movie was not going to happen, but I just didn’t take no for an answer. Also, when you utilize the tools of social media and movie making programs there is no excuse to not make your story come to life.
Due to a slight lack of character development, this movie reviewer gives four out of five stars.