Blindspotting

The best kind of films you don’t really watch but you experience. Throughout almost its entirety this is a film which I felt. It tackles such hot topics as the state of the U.S. today, race, gentrification, friendship, and class. It sounds like a hell of a lot to take on in a tight 95 minutes and yet life long friends along with co-writers of the script, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, not only make it work, but also entertaining along the way.

From getting out of prison on probation after serving time on a felony offence, we now jump forward to the last three days of probation for Oakland native, Collin (Daveed Diggs – Wonder, Ferdinand). He just has to be back for curfew at 11 p.m. at his half way home, keep his job as a mover and stay away from any trouble with the police for 72 hours. Does not seem like an impossible ask, but when you have a best friend like Miles (Rafael Casal – first film) and your beloved hometown is going through some changes in its landscape and population.

On the first of these three nights left while driving home in the moving van late one evening Collin witnesses a white cop shooting a fleeing black man in the back four times. He, after being shouted out by the cops to do so, leaves the scene. It haunts him. Conflicted because he witnessed something horrific, but he just wants to avoid any kind of trouble so he, a black man, does not end up back in prison.

Without hitting you with a frying pan over the head, the issues of police brutality and gentrification of traditionally poorer neighbourhoods make up a lot of what is covered here. On a more personal level, the identity of black man in America today, especially one who is an ex-con, is addressed. The way it is handled is so delicate and nuanced that you will find yourself even more drawn into the dialogue than you might have been otherwise. Through the eyes of a black man and his white best friend we see how society sees skin colour and the amount of money you make and the values they attribute to them. It is handled so well that you are within the debate/dialogue without even feeling it. Draws you in and makes you invested no matter the colour of your skin.

Miles, as the white guy, goes overboard with his slick lingo, chip on his shoulder and the grill he wears trying to separate himself from the hipsters that are moving into the area. Each of the best friends deals with the changing landscape and the ongoing racial tension in their own way. It is handled with aplomb within the film. Never feeling forced or fake.

Police brutality, though always there, has become a thing people of colour have to deal with. I cannot even imagine how frightening and wearing it must be. Collin is a man of colour with dreads who feels it every day and does what he can to avoid it without sacrificing his identity. The consequences of the brutality and the resulting trauma is there…at all times. It is not only exerts a physical toll, but an emotional one as well.

Though plenty of the credit for the success of the film has to be attributed to the best friends/lead actors/co-screenwriters – Casal and Diggs – director Carlos Lopez Estrada (Identity Theft) also shows plenty of promise directing only his second film. He keeps things going at a solid pace and the way he shoots the scenes really adds to the story being told. Because of the realism he brings to the shots you definitely get that fly on the wall feeling while watching.

A style all its own, some snappy dialogue, humour, and poignant moments that creep up on you, Blindspotting is one of the films which I will remember as one of the best I saw in 2018. As it forces all of us (or should) to take a long hard look at the Blindspots we have in regard to class, race and social status. Important exercise in today’s world.

 

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