Over the weekend, "Dear White People" premiered in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Atlanta. Next week the edgy satire will play nationwide completing a long – and in many ways – unlikely road to the silver screen.
"So this is based on your experience on a college campus?"
"That's where it started. I started writing this script a while ago."
31-year-old Director Jusitn Simien says he took 6 years penning the script for what is now a feature film but the real buzz started with a concept trailer released more than 2 years ago – which Simien reportedly paid for with a refund check.
"Yea boy! Public Enemy my Ni..."
"NO! You guys get country clubs and we get to say n*****."
The obviously provocative trailer went viral and led to an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign, which raised more than $40,000 and lured in a Hollywood vet as executive producer.
"My daughter actually told me to go online and look at this viral video. ... I called up Justin and said how can I help? I have to be involved."
Simien says with the trailer having done so well and so many people excited about the project it was almost nerve-racking to finally make the film.
"When people saw the film for the first time some would say, 'I've been supporting this film for two years' and I'm like 'Well, I hope you like it!' ... I was just really hoping the film lived up to that fake version of the film."
And it seems to be doing just that, with praise coming in from all corners of the film industry. "Dear White People" received a stellar 97% collective rating on Rotten Tomatoes and The New York Times writes of the film,
"It is as smart and fearless a debut as I have seen from an American filmmaker in quite some time: knowing but not snarky, self-aware but not solipsistic, open to influence and confident in its own originality."
Simien and Roadside Pictures – who picked up the film – have kept the buzz going for the film with creative shorts that have also gone viral, like "The More You Know (About Black People)"
"If you start a sentence with, 'not to be racist but' you probably shouldn't have started that sentence!" The racially charged PSA vids for the film have racked up more than 2.3 million views total.
As it stands the film is available in 11 theaters in four cities but raked in about $344,000 over the weekend.
It remains to be seen how well the viral-concept trailer turned national release will do around the country but with all the previously mentioned hurdles cleared many would argue it's already a success. "Dear White People" opens nationwide Thursday.
This video includes images from Getty Images.