Dear White People

The San Francisco International Film Festival returns April 24-May 8 and sf|noir co-presents Dear White People, first time director Justin Simien’s award-winning satire about being a black face, in a white place.

On the campus of Winchester University, a civil war is starting to erupt. An all-black residential hall is in the process of electing a new student head, with a run-off between two candidates: the handsome, jock-ish Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell) and the aspiring film student/militant radio DJ Sam White (Tessa Thompson). When White unexpectedly beats her super-popular rival, she decides to start enforcing some new rules that fight the power and ruffle some feathers around the African American students’ enclave. Thrown into the mix is a nerdy gay journalist (Tyler James Williams) working on the school newspaper; a wannabe reality-TV star trying to get her show “Doing Time at an Ivy League” off the ground; and a Caucasian humor-magazine editor that’s the definition of white frat-boy entitlement. This institution of higher learning is sitting on a racial powder keg.

Writer-director Justin Simien’s social satire delights in setting up recognizable stereotypes—the dogmatic activist, the bourgie buppie, the Afro homo boho and the crass white bro—and then knocking them down like bowling pins. A biting look at higher-education hypocrisy and racial politics in the “post-racial” world of Obama’s America, Simien’s comedy spares no one. But it also understands that the longer people pretend things like those real-life minstrel parties causing headlines on college campuses around the country aren’t symptoms of a larger problem, the farther we all are from actually being able to get along.

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