Photo: Courtesy Image
Last year filmmaker Justin Simien spoke to Out magazine about his debut feature film, Dear White People, previous to its theatrical release, explaining:
“I really wanted to talk about the black gay experience,” Simien says. “There is an image of the black man that is pervasive in the black community, and if you’re gay and you know you can’t ever live up to that standard, there’s an anxiety about being comfortable around other black people. It’s not always a result of actual prejudice, but it’s an anxiety that the black gay guy has that I think is unique.”
On Saturday the gay writer-director won Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards and, other than being in awe and basking in the presence of Oprah, 31-year-old Simien also gave a short, yet moving, speech that reiterated that idea of creating the stories that you need to see.
"I started writing this movie some 10 years ago as an impulse because I didn't really [see] my story out there in the culture. I didn't see myself reflected back at me in the films that I loved or the stories that resonated for me. So I tried to put myself in the culture. That can be difficult when, along the way, there's really nothing there to tell you that you belong there. This means so much to me, because it means I do belong in the culture. I'm very grateful. And if you have a story, and if you don't see yourself in the culture, please put yourself there, because we need you. We need to see the world from your eyes."
The awards ceremony is held the day before the Academy Awards, and it honors independent films and filmmakers. Birdman, Citizenfour, J.K. Simmons, Julianne Moore, and Patricia Arquette were among the honorees on Saturday (and all of them would also win Oscars the following day).
Watch his acceptance speech below: