Dear White People: Justin Simien's Controversial Concept Trailer Receives Both Praise and Criticism (w/ Video)

Dear White People, Justin Simien's concept trailer for his not-yet-made satirical film of the same name, has generated quite a bit of controversy since being uploaded to YouTube about two weeks ago. Comments below the video are a cauldron of ire-provoking debate.

Some agree wholeheartedly with the film's premise.

awesome trailer. i look forward to this. -dewfish

This looks like a great movie. -TBoneSprinkle

Others don't.

Because when black people stereotype white people it is so much better? Not sure if it was the intention but this trailer did highlight for me how stupid and ugly group think can be. I've come to the conclusion that people who first and for most need to identify with a race are weak and insecure individuals. White power or black pride = losers too afraid to stand on your own merits and be judged by the content of YOUR individual character + Cowards hiding behind labels and their own skin color. -Satire 97

The best way to end racism is to all be the same color, this movie is dumb and it's not going to change anything about anything, I'm going to go watch Game of Thrones now. -m0sheflows

Responding to people who say his movie idea is racist, Simiem insists he doesn't mean to be offensive and he doesn't mean to accuse anyone else of being racist. The Houston-born, Los Angeles-based filmmaker says he just wants to express the discomfort he and other African-Americans sometimes feel when they are the only "Black face in a white place," as the trailer's tagline reads.

After a multicultural upbringing in Houston which culminated in a high school diploma from HSPVA, Simien, 29, studied film at Chapman University in Orange County, California, a PWI -- predominantly white institution -- where he quickly learned that being African-American made him the elephant in many rooms.

"I encountered a lot of people that had a very specific idea of what 'black' meant," said Simien. "I either lived up to it or I didn't. I constantly had to play a role."

Finding the expectation to either live up to or tear down a stereotype frustrating, he started writing a screenplay about his experiences seven years ago, which morphed into a TV pilot, then back into a screenplay again.

If completed, Dear White People will be told through the eyes of lead character Sam White and three other African-American students at Manchester University, a fictional PWI loosely based on Simien's alma mater, who lead an uprising after the school's white students host an "African-American"-themed party: gold bling, baggy pants, 40-ounce beers, etc. in abundance.

The buzz around Dear White People is thick. There's a Twitter page. A Tumblr. A Huffington Post article penned by Simien himself about the genesis of the project. The YouTube trailer that, within a week, has gone viral, garnering over 600,000 hits. Most important, there's a page on fund-raising Web site Indiegogo, which in five days has raised over $36,000 toward pre-production costs, bringing Simien steps closer to his goal of seeing Dear White People on the silver screen. (There are 16 days left to make a donation to the project.)

In addition to starting a discussion about race identity, Simien also hopes that his movie's presence will bring about a return to the nuanced black films of the '90s (Love Jones, Do The Right Thing, Mo Betta Blues), rather than the pathological black-woman-in-pain movies or the finger-snapping, lip-smacking, neck-rolling black-men-pretending-to-be-black-women broad comedies that have proliferated in African-American cinema today.

"[There's] this idea that black people don't see movies that aren't Tyler Perry movies," Simien said. "There's no arthouse, no satire. That's not my life. I want to see my [life] experiences on the screen."

Check out the trailer below.

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