By Dana Harris | Indiewire March 19, 2014 at 10:35PM
Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have acquired North American rights to Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” which will screen this weekend at New Directors/New Films, won the the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — and was named Indiewire’s Project of the Year.
“Dear White People" follows the stories of four black students at the fictional Ivy League Winchester University, where a riot breaks out over a white fraternity’s 'African American’-themed party. The comedy explores racial identity while weaving a universal story of forging one's unique path in the world.
In his review out of the Sundance Film Festival, Eric Kohn wrote:
Though its premise may invite easy comparison's to Spike Lee's "School Daze," Simien's script invokes the history of black representation onscreen from "Birth of a Nation" to Madea. The filmmaker engages with the resonance of race in pop culture as a motivating force that informs behavior. "You watched 'Do the Right Thing' in high school and want to prove you're down," Sam tells Gabe in a frustrated attempt to resist his advances. Others characterize her in similarly reductive terms. "You're like Spike Lee and Oprah had some pissed-off baby." At one point, Sam leads a protest of Tyler Perry movies at the local movie theater, yielding a hilarious statement about the angst surrounding mainstream depictions of black characters that the movie addresses with its very existence.
Written and directed by Simien, “Dear White People" as produced by Effie T. Brown and Julia Lebedev, executive produced by Stephanie Allain and Leonid Lebedev, with Simien, Angel Lopez, Ann Le and Lena Waithe as producers.
Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris and Brandon P Bell lead the ensemble cast.
“This film was truly a labor of love with everyone on our team giving 110%,” said Brown. "We have so few films made by people of color and I couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of bringing Justin’s fresh voice to fruition. And now to partner with Lionsgate and Roadside is an exciting next chapter in what I’m sure will be an amazing life for “Dear White People."
The deal was negotiated by Marc Danon and Jean Chi on behalf of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, and by WME Global and attorney Irwin M. Rappaport on behalf of the filmmakers.