Dear White People review

Film review rating: **

(108 minutes)

Lexi Cinema

Kensal Green, London NW10

Film review date: Sunday 19th July 2015

Starring: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell and Kyle Gallner.

Writer and Director: Justin Simien

Dear White People was the talk of the town in July. Curiously it is not a new film, since it was initially released on 17th October 2014 in America. It had one screening in London in November that year and following demands that it be shown in England it had a premiere and nationwide release in July 2015.

The film is set on a fictional Ivy league university, Winchester University. Some of the African-American students are exasperated by how the majority white students view them, especially seeing them as being one, homogenous group. Sam White one of the most vocal of the African-Caribbean students broadcasts a weekly radio show called ‘Dear White People’ which gives the film it’s title. Through weekly broadcasts and her book, ‘Ebony & Ivy’, she highlights different issues of concern to the Black students – racism, sexism, gender roles, homophobia, politics, class and various stereotypes etc…

dearwhitepeoplestaringpic

That’s a lot of heavyweight issues and therein lies one of the films biggest problems. The film tries to cover far too many issues, such that none are really satisfactorily explored. Much like the characters, whom we don’t really get to know that well or even care that much for. The key to any good film is character development and having believable characters that the viewer cares about – whether that is in hoping that they succeed or fail in their endeavours. You have to try and create some form of passionate interest in them and their stories or the film can become un-interesting. This film failed to do that. The key players came across more like cardboard cut out characters – the alpha male, the pretty one, the academic one’s, the hip and the gay one. They needed to be more fleshed out characters.

The method of exploring racial tensions didn’t really work out at all. Towards the end there was a party episode where the white students “blacked up” and dressed up as black people, but it didn’t really seem real. For a start, I wouldn’t expect highly educated students at a prestigious university to be carrying on like that. Something about it was just too juvenile for starters. The attempts to bring the party to a close seemed contrived, over the top and somewhat irrelevant as those students weren’t really the problem. The real problem at the moment is the American Police force and white supremacists, not white Ivy league students enjoying a frat party, however dubious the theme may have been.

Above all, the movie lacked dramatic tension, again another vital element for any good film or story. This was a shame as there was clearly plenty of scope for it, for instance when the former boyfriend (Troy Fairbanks, son of the school Dean) and girlfriend (Sam White) went up against each other for President of the Black Students Union. There could and should have been more made of this in the build up or post election result, but it wasn’t. Perhaps because it didn’t tick one of the big political themes boxes.

It was a watchable, reasonably entertaining film, but as an issues driven movie, the arguments the film makers wanted to get across could have been delivered more comprehensively and cogently through an academic article.

Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town

UK Screenings of Dear White People can be located on Flix and Dear White People UK

Links:

  1. Man Up review – 20th July 2015
  2. Race – An Inconvenient Truth: Things we won’t say about race that are true – 20th March 2015
  3. No Laughing Matter: Race, Identity & the Humour of Sacha Baron Cohen – 19th March 2015
  4. The Love Punch review – 25th August 2014
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2 Responses to Dear White People review

  1. lloyd mcleish says:

    I went to see the film Dear White People over the weekend and in spite of the film title I did not know really what to expect or even what it was really about as I was invited by a friend. The film was base on a college campus where black student can feel institutionalize racism in how they are taught while the white lecturers and student feel this is normal behavior and are in denial that something is wrong. They ask themselves the same question, ” Why do black people have serious attitude problem with authority”.. The film ask the same question that black have ask themselves as to why we are not united in helping each other and why we have an identity crisis of our own to deal with. I felt this film was trying to make a point that black people have to know themselves and give themselves self love before we can move on and fight the real battle ahead. This film was a low budget film and you were able to see this in the movie, the point that it was trying to get over to the audience was very strong but it was not a film that will stick out for me with true affection of what it means to be black and fighting the educational system.

  2. Tiemo Talk says:

    Thanks Lloyd for that considered comment. I don’t recollect the classroom issues you refer to but I appreciate that could be a factor in the film and in education generally re white teachers not understanding Black students and knowing how best to handle and teach those that may present particular problems for them.

    Identity crisis, failure to teach meaningful Black history contribute to a sense of low self-esteem and accentuate the identity crisis that doesn’t not help young Black boys and girls.

    Self-love is an issue to I agree. This is something I touch on in my latest review of ‘Looking for Love’ which addresses Black relationships and inter-racial relationships.

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