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Sundance: ‘Dear White People’ Director Wants to Call Sh*t Out While Making You Laugh

Sundance: 'Dear White People' Director Wants to Call Sh*t Out While Making You Laugh

“You absolutely have permission to laugh,” “Dear White People” writer-director Justin Simien said at yesterday’s Sundance screening before a largely Caucasian crowd at the Eccles. “You got your honorary black card with your Sundance ticket.”

And laugh they did. Every joke (and the 2-hour comedy is chock-full of them) in Simien’s racially charged satire landed, resulting in one raucous screening.

Simien’s debut, which was Indiewire and Tribeca Film Institure’s first-ever Project of the Year, is a freewheeling ensemble piece set at a fictional Ivy League college that explores racial identity in Obama’s America. It centers on how four black students each react when they learn of a planned ‘African American’ themed party, thrown by white students.

“I went to a private school,” Simien said during the post-screening Q&A, when asked if he attended a college similar to the one shown in the film. “It’s a ‘PWI’: a predominately white institution.

“I definitely had some of these experiences, though nothing as extreme as what’s on the screen. Really the script came from a research process looking into what happens in schools where there were race based residence halls. Looking into schools where these sorts of parties take place and continue to take place. I really wanted to put on the screen a microcosm of the new black experiences, because I’m a black person moving between different crowds and different cultures.”

“It was just fresh,” actress Teyonah Paris said, when asked why she took part in the project. “It’s a point of view from someone who is going through similar things. I just wanted to be part of telling our story in a way that doesn’t ostracize anybody, but pulls everyone in to say, ‘Look, this is what it is.'”

Paris cited a recent incident during Sundance when a woman on Main Street came up to her and remarked how wild her hair was, to emphasize just how relevant Simien’s film is.

“It’s important to start a dialogue,” Simien added. “Admit we’re in weird place and call shit out when it happens. That’s why we made the movie.”

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Comments

yvonne

jeanu, i disagree with you. first off, the "original" was a concept trailer. it wasn't an actual film. he didn't use an all black cast in the concept trailer. there was a white frat and one of the main characters had a white GF, remember?

Jeanu

Well, the original cast members made this film seem more serious. So, I guess since Justin got $upport he's selling out – excuse me, watering down "his experience". Furthermore, what's puzzling is that originally he used an all black cast, which solely addressed the white race. So, I'm not buying the "different cultures" pitch. However, I think it's in his best (future) interest not to produce a film that appears racists w/o satire.

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