Tuesday 9 June 2015
Press Release: Dear White People
10th June 2015
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK & The New Black Film Collective
Screen ‘Dear White People’ in UK cinemas
‘Dear White People' is an award winning USA produced satirical comedy-drama film set on a University campus, directed and written by Justin Simien. The film won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Justin Simien has been named in Variety magazine's 2013 "10 Directors to Watch" list.
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts and The New Black Film Collective have launched a campaign to get the film screened in cinemas.
The film is due for general theatrical release in the UK from July 10th but so far very few cinemas have agreed to screen the film with no cinemas agreeing to standard full 7 day run.
The BFI has refused lottery funding to the New Black Film Collective (one of only two black film distribution companies in the UK), which would have supported the distribution of the film with no justifiable reasons given and a major independent art-house cinema chain has turned it down even though they stated that they like the film.
The response to 'Dear White People' by the UK film industry is part of a wider problem of institutional racism in the industry, whereby films featuring black characters, exploring race and identity and / or made by black producers / directors are repeatedly rejected for theatrical release, meaning that they go straight to DVD / Blue Ray release unless they portray black people in negative stereotypical roles or there is a tokenistic response of one-off screenings linked to cultural events such as Black History Month with very limited or no screenings outside of London.
'Dear White People' and other intelligent films exploring the issues of race, racism, identity and intersectionality should be available for mainstream and diverse audiences to view and enjoy and are important in creating dialogue about the issues and in tackling racism. Set on a USA university campus, the film reflects the experiences of black students in universities here in the UK: a study carried out by the National Union of Students found that one in six black students in UK universities had experienced racism in their institution, a third felt their educational environment left them unable to bring their minority perspective to lectures and tutorials, and 7% openly labelled their learning environment as "racist".
Charmaine Simpson, Chair of The New Black Film Collective said:
‘We refuse to become Oliver Twist begging ‘please sir can we have some more’ but rather emulate Lenny Henry and Greg Dyke in calling out the bastions of British culture for being ‘hideously white’. We must not let them allow diversity to be a talking shop or a box to tick – instead put their lottery money where their mouth is instead of hiding behind fake excuses that are used to preserve the status quo. There has to be a spotlight put on white privilege and black disadvantage – this sense of entitlement and old boys network must be brought crashing down. Dear White People is addressed to you – Britain, so let this be a love letter for change’.
Zita Holbourne, Co-Chair of BARAC UK said:
‘Institutional racism in the film and wider arts & culture industries must be challenged, austerity and cuts are impacted disproportionately on young black people wishing to enter the industry as well as access for black communities. It is simply unacceptable to pigeonhole a film as suitable only for black audiences because it is directed by a black man and addresses the issues of identity and race and then reject it on that basis. The film is important in exploring issues of racism which is a responsibility of all, not just those on the receiving end but ultimately the film is a piece of art and art deserves to be enjoyed by everyone’.
A petition started four days ago on change.org has already gained hundreds of signatures: https://www.change.org/p/uk-cinemas-bfi-screen-dear-white-people-in-cinemas-across-the-uk and a screening of the film is due to take place in Parliament together with a discussion on the issue of institutional racism in the industry as part of the campaign.
Supporters are encouraged to organise their own screenings and to book tickets to the UK Premiere taking place at Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square in July.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or
Twitter: @tnbfc @baracuk
Reviews & Synopsis
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 92% saying;
'Dear White People adds a welcome new voice to cinema's oft-neglected discussion of race, tackling its timely themes with intelligence, honesty, and gratifyingly sharp wit.'
The New York Times said of it;
'Everyone should see this movie, and everyone will see it a little differently. Maybe you will think it goes too far, or not far enough. Since I happen to belong to the group to which it is explicitly addressed, a direct response seems warranted. Dear “Dear White People”: Got your message. Keep in touch.'
'“Dear White People” nonetheless provokes admiration for having bothered to ask some of the hard questions without pretending to know any of the answers. It also works as a fine showcase for its actors: Fleshing out characters that could have been little more than one-note mouthpieces, Williams, Thompson, Parris and Bell all make strong, distinctive impressions, with Thompson perhaps the standout as the film’s sharpest and most enigmatic figure.'
We call on cinema chains across the UK to screen 'Dear White People' when it is released in July and to consider screening it for 7 day runs or more and for the BFI to reverse its decision not to provide lottery funding for the distribution of the film. It is important that they are held to account on their commitment and promises around diversity.
Sam White is a mixed race film production major at Winchester University, a prestigious and predominantly white school. With her sharp tongued and witty radio show Dear White People and her self-published book, Ebony and Ivy, Sam causes a stir among the administration and student body alike, criticising white people and the racist transgressions at Winchester.
When Sam wins the election for head of house of Armstrong/Parker, the all black house on campus, tensions rise. In winning the election, she beats her ex-boyfriend Troy Fairbanks, the son of the school's dean. Troy harbours dreams of being a comedic writer rather than a lawyer, but his father prefers that he not give white people a chance to profile him, and will accept nothing less than his best. Coco has an issue with Sam because the reality TV producer she is trying to win over would rather do a show on the witty light-skinned black girl than her. Lionel Higgins, a black gay student, gets a chance at finally finding his place at Winchester by being recruited by the school's most prestigious student paper to write a piece on Sam and the black experience at Winchester. When Kurt, a white student and son of the school's president, and his club come up with a blackface theme for their annual party in response to Sam's outspoken show, black students appear at the party, and a confrontation ensues, leading to a brawl.