Dear White People
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY
First of all, I wanna say upfront how grateful I am that the Kew Gardens is showing Dear White People. I was prepared to see this in the city if I had to - the Kew gets a lot of indie films, but they don't get everything - but seeing it in Queens, at a reasonable price (read: single digits) means a lot to me. They even put it in Theater 3, the main auditorium, which is the biggest one they have.
Now, when the movie started, I was the only person there.
It was a mid-afternoon showing, on a Tuesday, where all-day admission is $8, and there are usually a fair amount of people at the Kew on a Tuesday, especially during the first week of a new release. And it must be said: Kew Gardens is a very white neighborhood. Draw your own conclusions.
None of this is the theater's fault. They did their job.
I've talked about this before, but it really bears repeating: it's regrettable, to say the least, that movie theaters in black neighborhoods in this town don't do more to support black-themed independent movies. Black folks don't go to art house theaters in large numbers, so when a movie like this comes along, they won't get to see it, and they need to.
Regardless, this was everything I expected and more. Don't be put off by the provocative title! Equal parts funny and insightful, with characters that explore this so-called post-racial society from many relevant angles - media stereotyping, language and who gets to use it; upward mobility; to name a few - all within the context of higher education. The Spike Lee comparisons are apt, but I also detected influences from Wes Anderson, John Landis and Stanley Kubrick, whom writer/director Justin Simien has said is a favorite of his.
There are a handful of moments where the cast faces the camera directly, and though the fourth wall is never broken, the audience is, by implication, part of the story. It's as if Simien is using his film to engage in a conversation with the audience, and insisting that you not dismiss his perspective.
So about twenty minutes into the film, someone else entered the auditorium, which shocked the hell out of me. At the end, when the lights came up again, I saw that this was an older woman, in her sixties at least, and black. I couldn't resist coming up to her and asking what she thought. She seemed to like the film, though she said something about how she hoped this didn't reflect reality too much. One look at the images in the closing credits should answer that question (he said, trying to avoid spoilers). Perhaps she didn't notice. I almost didn't!