Review by Jacquelin Hipes
As the writers and stars of Blindspotting, childhood friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have produced something truly special. Both were born and raised in Oakland, California, a city named after the massive trees chopped down to make way for a growing population. Now a different kind of change is taking place: gentrification. Whole Foods is taking the place of neighborhood corner stores and the unique culture of long-time residents is being repackaged, watered down to appeal to the millennial tech start-up employees flooding the area. It’s in this environment of rapid change that best friends Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal) must learn to adapt and stay out of trouble.
A black man and a convicted felon in the last days of his parole, Collin witnesses the shooting of a black man by a white police officer on his way home one night. In the ensuing chaos, other officers usher him away from the scene, but the act of violence profoundly affects him. While he and Miles are connected by a mutual community and culture, the contrast between how each of them are perceived and treated (Miles is white) comes into sharp relief several times throughout the film. Both men participate in the fight that landed Collin in jail, but his friend avoided any consequences. Late in the film, after another fight at a house party escalates far beyond the original slight, Collin even confronts Miles over how he benefits from the image and trappings of a predominantly black community without ever truly experiencing the fear that they do.
Diggs and Casal both give impassioned performances, but the conversation they’re meant to spark isn’t an exclusive one. Blindspotting is a story that lives in the grey areas of our lives; it calls attention to the blind spots inherent to every one of us and asks us to acknowledge them, even if we can’t completely overcome them. Oftentimes it approaches the issues of race and gentrification with humor. When it takes on a deadly serious tone, however, events can shift from funny to riveting in an instant. In a scene towards the end of the film, Collin purges his feelings of fear, inadequacy, and otherness in spitfire verse delivered straight into the camera. It’s impossible to look away…and you shouldn’t want to. Plenty of good films reach theaters every year; an important film like this is much rarer. Blindspotting is fresh and smart and raw, a love letter and warning cry, that deserves every ounce of empathy it wrings from you.