Directed by Carlos López Estrada
Starring: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar
Running time 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA rating: R
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
I don’t think I have ever watched a movie quite like this and hopefully it won’t be the last time. Everyone needs to see this movie, preferably with someone, because there is a lot to unpack and discuss.
Blindspotting, the feature film debut from director Carlos López Estrada has a lot to say. In just a little over ninety minutes, it manages to present a copious amount of thoughts regarding race, class, violence, and the stereotypes that our society perpetuates. The amount of subject matters that this flick raises, and the way in which it was crafted, tells me that its writers, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, whom also star, have had these messages on their mind for a while. When watching the film, it felt as if this story had been bottled up inside Diggs and Casal, because it simply explodes on screen and it is hard not to feel its effects.
Set in Oakland, the movie tells the story of two life-long friends, Collin and Miles. Collin, portrayed by Daveed Diggs is finishing out his probation sentence and has only a mere three days left until it is completed. Collin and Miles work together at a moving company. Throughout the film, we are witness to Collin striving to make changes in his life for the better. While Miles chooses to live a chaotic life filled with mayhem and turmoil, because he can.
The entire plot of this story is driven by a single night that went wrong and landed Collin in jail. Collin isn’t the only one to blame for this incident, but he is the only one paying the consequence. Miles, on the other hand, seems to have led a life of destruction with no repercussion. Throughout the course of the three days left of Collin’s probation, he is being tested. Unfortunately, many of the compromising situations he finds himself in are brought upon him by the reckless Miles.
There is a line in the film that Colin’s probation officer says to him, “You’re a convicted felon until proven otherwise.” This has stuck with me. For many, it is believed that if you do the crime you pay with time. This is just a falsity. For many, even after their sentence is complete, they continue to pay. Their lives are forever changed, especially for those who are not white. Even if a person of color finds themselves to not be a convicted felon, they still face other challenges within society.
This story made me realize and think about how hard it is for some people to simply just live their lives. There is a scene in which Miles’ girlfriend, Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones), is given a pamphlet instructing her how to talk to her child, Sean, about cops. Later in the movie, we see the impact the talk has on Sean. What initially starts as a playful altercation between Sean and Collin, goes too far, causing Collin to raise his voice. This, in turn, frightens the child and leaves him exclaiming “don’t shoot, don’t shoot!”. The look of terror in Collin’s eyes punched me in the gut. For him, it revives the memories of seeing a young black man being gunned down in the street by an officer. My heart filled with sadness for those that are unable to live their lives without fear.
I was not raised to be afraid of other people, especially those that I was informed are doing a job to protect and serve. This film made me realize that the way in which white people go about their lives is with blinders on, unaware of what is happening around them and taking the simple things in life for granted, like being able to walk down the street at night. The environments in which we grow up in and the beliefs that these situations instill in us, don’t always ring true for others. I grew up in a household, where I was told to trust police. My father, a Vietnam Vet, respects the boys and girls in blue and, in turn, this was expected of me as well. It was not until I went to college and began to interact with other individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds that I realized, cops aren’t a friend to all. Most times cops aren’t a friend to anyone. Cops are just like everybody, human. Some humans are good, some are bad. I believe my father would feel different about the police if they were hunting down his people.
Something I feel this movie points out so well, is that as a society we spend a lot of time passing judgment based on an outward appearance. Whether it is the color of their skin, the clothes they are wearing or the way in which they style their hair. It takes a lot of effort to get to truly know someone. We live in an era now, in which a simple swipe to the right or left will decide whether you are destined to meet. How does one decide about a person if they have not even spoken a single word to them? There was a great example of this in the film. In which Miles and Colin attended a house party. A black man encountered Miles in the kitchen and immediately made assumptions about Miles due to his teeth plate and manner of speaking. Due to this and the issues of gentrification within Oakland, he referred to Miles as a “culture vulture”, not realizing that Miles had spent his entire life in the neighborhood. Simply because he was white, didn’t mean that he was not from Oakland. It was so great, to see this played out in this way. It shows that no one is immune to stereotyping.
This film may have some comedic moments, when it comes to the interactions between Collin and Miles, but it is by no means a comedy. It is more than that. It is a much-needed moving story that is giving us a commentary on the world in which we find ourselves. More films need to be made like this to help us understand one another.
For some people, they are not given a choice. Instead, the way in which they live their lives is chosen for them by others. Go watch this movie and then let’s talk about it.