Dear White People (2014, Justin Simien)

Agreeing with J. Rocchi:

Dear White People pulls off a surprising number of things with startling ability. It’s an American film that talks about race with strong feeling, common sense and good humor; it’s an indie screenwriting-directing debut as polished as it is provocative; it’s a satire that also lets its characters be people; it’s a showcase of clever craft and direction as well as whip-smart comedic writing brought to life by a dedicated, charismatic cast that also conveys real ideas and emotion.

Set at an ivy-league school (but shot at the University of Minnesota – Katy recognized the buildings). Sam (Tessa Thompson of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls) runs the titular radio show, semi-accidentally becomes head of her residence house after giving a provocative speech, defeating her ex-boyfriend Troy (soap actor Brandon Bell).

Troy is son of college dean Dennis Haysbert (last seen in Far From Heaven), starts kissing up to president of a different house, Kurt (Kyle Gallner of Red State), who is son of the college president (Haysbert’s boss). Troy is also dating Kurt’s sister / the president’s daughter, which gives Haysbert a certain racial/sexual-power satisfaction.

Other leads: Lionel is a nerdy gay writer (Tyler James Williams, title star of Everybody Hates Chris), Coco is a fame-hungry student (Teyonah Parris of Mad Men and They Came Together) and Reggie is Sam’s hanger-on at the black student union (Marque Richardson). Climax is Troy’s all-white house throwing a race-reversal/mocking party (blackface rap-video atmosphere with watermelon, etc). Probably the whole mystery surrounding the ending was unnecessary – Coco and Troy are both desperate enough to fit in that they get involved in the party, but it turns out to have been Sam’s brainchild as an anarchist racism-exposure idea. But the twists matter less than they might have, because the movie is so sharply shot and written, and remains warmly character-based instead of leaning too hard on story. Then it shows mind-melting photos of real college race parties over the closing credits.