By Arthur Fishel III
‘Blindspotting’ thrusts head first into the divided streets of the Oakland. On one side, the everyday multicultural ‘town’ residents whose lower to working class environment is as diverse as it is authentic; on the other side we see the up and coming new money gentrified transplants whose authenticity is merely a façade to be appear truly local on their terms. This is something which any home grown urbanite can see in their own city to one degree or another.
The story follows Collin, (Daveed Diggs) a convicted felon on his last days of probation, whose desire to extricate himself from a court ordered halfway house and get his life back on track is complicated by his best friend Miles’s (Rafael Casal) inability and lack of desire to keep out of trouble. While Collin has the perception of being ‘street’ due to his race and style, in many ways it is Miles, a white guy, that over personifies this ‘street’ moniker with his grill, tattoos, language, and attitude. The crux of the story occurs while rushing home to keep his 11 p.m curfew, Collin is witness to a white police office shooting and killing an unarmed black man. Having locked eyes with both the white officer and the black man, Collin is haunted by the encounter which is only further aggravated by skewed media coverage.
This film, penned by Mr. Diggs and Mr. Casal, features whip-smart straightforward dialog that often times walks the line between a desire to be entertaining and a desire to provide a social commentary for the time. Director Carlos López Estrada’s style serves to enhance the quick paced and energetic story which complements the authentic and profound performances by the film’s leads. In both this style and storyline is a conundrum.
At first glance, this film hits you like an edge of your seat suspense thriller. Each day of Collin’s probation counting down–with each day a heightened sense of paranoia over every instance and happenstance that brings Collin closer to another year in jail, or worse—death. Alternatively the natural dialog offers a comedic flair that breaks up the deeper moments embedded in the story and in many cases distracts or detracts from their richness.
Then it hit me—that’s life.
The film is an on the nose story from the perspective of Collin, a ex-con black man, living in a city that is evolving and gentrifying to view him as only one thing— a suspicious looking black man. These deep, at times difficult to watch, moments have to be broken up with light hearted camaraderie because that is how people get through the most trying days. Oftentimes we root for a particular character, but sitting through this film you find yourself rooting for them all to simply make it through the day—that no one is hurt—that it all turns out okay.
The timelines of the film has kept it a regular topic of conversation for me, because the heart of the film is so wildly pertinent to the day to day struggle of a great many people. ‘Blindspotting’ is fearless and poignant storytelling that I can only hope is seen by as many people as humanly possible.
Arthur is a filmmaker and a graduate of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and is also a professional script consultant, avid dancer and passionate youth advocate.