Two months following its competition bow at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Variety reports Lionsgate has acquired U.S. and Canadian rights to the feature Dear White People, which will be released through the studio’s specialty arm Roadside Attractions. Written and directed by Justin Simien, in his feature debut, the film was one of the more noteworthy premieres at the Park City film festival, where Simien won a Special Jury Prize for breakthrough talent. The Sundance citation called Dear White People “the movie with a reverence, audacity and a sense of humor that was unique in its category, for the arrival of original and exciting new voice in American cinema.” Simien was named as one of the directors to watch at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival and by Variety.
The film, a campus satire revolving the adventures of four black students at an Ivy League university, earned notoriety for its blunt stance on racial tension. Tension in the film – set at a fictional American college – is marked by an “African-American theme party” thrown by a white fraternity. Variety‘s Justin Chang said of the film, “While it veers toward smugness and self-satisfaction at times, the Spike-Lee-lite exercise nonetheless heralds a fresh and funny new voice on the scene in writer-director Justin Simien.” The comedy may mark an interesting counterpoint on racial dynamics in a year already marked by the historic Oscar victory of 12 Years a Slave.
Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) heads a cast of newcomers including Tessa Thompson and Brandon P. Bell. No release date has been scheduled as of yet, but Roadside may be looking for a fall release to capitalize on 2014 awards potential and picking up from fresh buzz from fall films like Toronto.