Justin Simien was nominated for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for his debut “Dear White People.”
While the award ended up going to Ana Lily Amirpour for “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” but Justin was happy to be nominated. We spoke with him on the red carpet at the 24th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP at Cipriani Wall Street. Read what he had to say below.
What does this honor mean to you?
Justin: Wow, it means everything. This is so cool. It’s the Gothams man! We are in the room now. We are big people.
Why is it important for people to support independent films?
Justin: Independent films is where the action is. It’s where the stories that have not been told enough – represents the rest of us in the culture. It’s so important. It’s the only lane that we have now to tell the stories that really affect the complexity of the American experience, the complexity of the human experience and it’s so important to support and keep it alive.
“Dear White People” also explores sexuality. Can you speak about that element?
Justin: Sure, well to me I was making a story about identity, so as many conflicting things I could pile onto the characters to have them be confused what box to fit. Because the truth about the human experience is that none of us fit soundly and neatly in any of the boxes. And so, you add race and gender, and sexual orientation, and class, and all those things on top of what you are already and it’s a really awkward thing. There’s never a one size fits all. So, for me it was important for this to happen to fully fleshed human beings. There weren’t just black people. They were black, and then they were also women, they were also gay, they were also poor. You know, I wanted to mix it up and have every character have fighting characteristics.
Was it hard to balance everything?
It’s a challenge, but it’s fun. I don’t think there’s any other way to tell that story. I don’t think you can really be honest about identity or race from one point of view. I think it’s important to show the complexity of the subject.
“Dear White People” is now playing. The event was presented by euphoria Calvin Klein and the New York Times.