Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 8:21 am | Fog/Mist 57º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Dear White People’

There are few aspects of human life that provide more opportunity but have caused more difficulty than race relations. The opportunity comes from the possibility of uniting around our common humanity. The difficulty is that we often do not. Instead, we amplify the skin-deep differences of color and create isolated cultures with resulting injustices and difficulties.

We had hoped that Justin Simien’s Dear White People may be of assistance in understanding and healing these racial divides. We were disappointed.

Although the film is filled with clichés and stereotypes as ingredients of the plot, the film does not, in fact, rise above being a cliché in virtually every area. These are found in presenting characters of wealth, power or privilege as well as those representing the opposites of poverty, powerless and underprivileged. Homosexuality, ambition and even academia are also presented in shallow stereotypes.

Written and directed by Simien in his first full-length film, the ensemble cast revolves primarily around Samantha White (Tessa Thompson). A brilliant and articulate media major at the prestigious ivy-league Winchester University, she and her fellow minority students experience both prejudice and racism. Releasing her frustrations through film and radio, Sam creates a radio show titled “Dear White People.” Using social media and the struggles of race relations, Sam begins to create waves within her school.

Also playing major roles in the tale are Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) an aspiring reporter; Colandrea “Coco” Collins (Teyonah Parris), a beautiful black woman looking for fame; Kurt Fletcher (Kyle Gallner), whose playful humor and kind heart blend in unexpected ways; Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), whose father, Dean Fairbanks (Dennis Haysbert), has great ambitions for his son, and Reggie (Marque Richardson), a Malcolm X disciple, to name only a few.

Navigating our future as a nation of many races, America could provide a model for future peace among all nations and races. But we need more from our artists than this film provided.

Discussion

» The post-modern nature of this film in which every person is flawed and there is no model on which these young people could base their lives, do you see this as just a reflection of real life or a jaded view? Why do you answer as you do?

» The love that is expressed at the end of the film was counter-cultural. Do you believe this is a statement of hope or irony by the director/writer?

» Do you believe this film is an accurate reflection of race-relations? Why do you answer as you do?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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