“Dear White People” doesn’t hit theaters until October, but the film already has fans, thanks to a strong social media presence and an impressive run at Sundance, where the satire won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent. How did a film that started as a concept trailer drum up so much excitement? In a word: resonance.
“Dear White People” follows four black students as they navigate racial dynamics at their Ivy League college, Winchester University. The film’s first full-length trailer, posted on YouTube today, mirrors the conversations and awareness campaigns launched recently by black students at predominantly white colleges. The parallels weren’t lost on the director, who joined students from the University of Michigan and Harvard earlier this year to discuss race on college campuses. Their chat was hosted by Colorlines, a news site geared toward issues of race.
The trailer deftly highlights identity issues and the challenges that come up when discussing race. Each character approaches the topic differently.
There’s Sam, for instance, who airs her views in a campus radio show, saying: “Dear white people, the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two.” She adds: “Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.” Another character, Lionel, wonders if he’s “black enough” after confessing that he listens to Mumford & Sons and watches Robert Altman movies.
Debates about whether black people can be racist? Check.
An awkward hair-touching scene? Check, check and check.
The clip doesn’t shy away from controversy, with one white character asking: “How would you feel if someone started a Dear Black People?”
The trailer also features a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo from Issa Rae, who gained a following (and an HBO deal) after exploring uncomfortable situations around race in her comedic Web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.”