Blindspotting – film review
Director: Carlos López Estrada
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal
Runtime: 95 mins
In cinemas now
A word-of-mouth indie hit from a first-time American director, starring two virtual unknowns, Blindspotting is a mordantly funny film about prejudice, police brutality, racial stereotypes, class divisions and gentrification.
Laugh-a-minute, you’re probably thinking, but it does achieve the tricky balance between humour, suspense, emotional resonance and social relevance. That it does so is largely due to the outstanding central performances of Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. Real-life best friends playing on-screen best buddies, they wrote the sharp script, with its universal messages of tolerance and respect, and set it in their own backyard – the San Francisco suburb of Oakland.
Diggs, a big, braided black man, is the gentle giant Collin, with three days probation to get through without trouble before he’s a free man – a prospect threatened by witnessing a white cop shoot a black man dead as the deadline looms. His friend Miles is an angry, violent jive-talking “nigga” of the two (and there’s a complex comedic exchange about the appellation), complete with gold grills and concealed weapon. In a challenge to the prejudices and preconceptions of the white world, and the audience, the twist is that he’s white.
It would be easy for the script to lapse into easy cliché but the performances and writing are strong enough to keep both characters likeable, flaws and all; and the tone remains light even when the subject matter gets serious. There is even some rap, used sparingly for dramatic effect in the film, but generously on a soundtrack filled with local hip-hop artists – enabling Diggs to show off his considerable skills from his stage role in Hamilton.
The comedy comes mostly at the expense of the hipsters rapidly colonising their ‘hood and will be familiar to anyone whose own neighbourhood has been whitewashed in recent years. There’s a priceless party scene in a rich white incomer’s luxurious architect-designed house (wedged incongruously between two old clapboard homes) where Diggs’ friend explains that the host is the CEO of her workplace and is holding a mixer party- “mixing 150 white people with… now THREE black people” – and a flashback to the incident that got Collin jailed that’s played out as farce.
First-time director Carlos López Estrada thankful avoids stereotypical characters and situations, even when the film turns dark in its third act, plays to the strengthe of a sharply satirical script that subtly finds humour in social realism, and never leads us quite where we think we’re going to go. Highly recommended.
More information about Blindspotting online at the official site here, and trailer below: