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Activists demands nationwide screening of Dear White People

IN DEMAND: A scene from Dear White People starring Tyler James Williams (centre)

FOLLOWING ITS successful run in the United States, the critically acclaimed cult movie Dear White People will be making its way to UK screens but only in selected cinemas provoking anger among film fans.

The independent film was initially released last year (January 18) as part of the festival circuit and then premiered across the US on October 17, 2014.

But despite its box office success, the film has not been given the theatrical treatment it deserves in the UK, campaigners argued.

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) and The New Black Film Collective have since launched a campaign to get the film more widely distributed.

To date, very few cinemas will show the film and none have agreed to a standard full seven-day run.
The satirical comedy directed by Justin Simien has been applauded for its critical commentary on race relations in America.  

It tells the story of African American students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular ‘African American-themed’ party thrown by white students.

Since premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January, both the film and its cast – including Everybody Hates Chris actor Tyler James Williams in a lead role – have received rave reviews.

Campaigners have accused the British film industry of institutional racism, arguing that this fed into a much larger debate on the challenges experienced by black creatives in the UK.

Zita Holbourne, co-chair of BARAC UK, said: “Institutional racism in the film and wider arts and culture industries must be challenged, austerity and cuts impact disproportionately on young black people wishing to enter the industry as well as access for black communities.”

The two organisations championing the film accused the British Film Institute (BFI) of being a part of the problem by denying critical funding that would have made it possible to facilitate further screenings.

They said: “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.”

However, a BFI spokesperson told The Voice that it was unable to comment on individual applications, as the information was confidential. The spokesperson explained that they had screened the film as part of the BFI London Film Festival in October 2014, where it received an enthusiastic response from press and audiences alike.

It was screened again in March 2015 at BFI Southbank as part of BFI Flare LGBT film festival.

As part of their petition, organisers have called for exposure of the industry’s failure to support films that explore race and identity through a non stereotypical lens and feature black cast and black director.

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