Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

Dear White People

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on November 14, 2014 at 6:15 PM


Justin Simien




IDEA:  The lives of four black students at a predominantly white Ivy League school come under the fire of prejudice, identity politics, and institutional racism as the administration's randomized housing act threatens to dissolve the school's only black residence.

BLURB:  For a topic still as incendiary as race relations in America, bringing it up at all is often enough to ignite a fire. It’s a double-edged sword: talk about the issue too much, and you’re exacerbating its presence; don’t talk about it enough, and you risk losing sight of it or denying the problem altogether. Thankfully, Justin Simien’s Dear White People is here to take the perilous walk along the blade, and it (mostly) does so with formidable and intrepid aplomb. Dialectical in a way too rarely seen in today’s cinema, Simien’s film is charged, prudent ideological filmmaking, daring to tackle pressing real world social issues in a way that accounts for all of their facets without pretending they’re actually reconcilable. The approach is highly effective, confrontational but not didactic: tracking multiple, often contradictory 21st century black perspectives, he manages to create a multilayered portrait of young black identities that never feels as if it’s picking sides or chastising. These characters represent the spectrum, and Simien allows them all to be seen and heard in equal measure. Even better, he creates a space for them that’s warm, witty, and equipped with wonderfully preemptive strikes against anyone who dares submit that centuries of entrenched racism have somehow vanished in Obama’s America. At the very least, Dear White People promulgates a sage discourse that ensures such inanity isn’t easily let off the hook.

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