With the crackling anger and punchy humour of an early Spike Lee movie, and a flow of rhyme, rhythm and ideas that is all its own, Blindspotting could well be the most potent commentary on US racial politics since Get Out.
The film was written by and stars real-life friends and Bay Area residents Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal; the intent was to capture the essence of Oakland, CA. The core of the film is the friendship between soft-spoken, sad-eyed Collin (Diggs, the Tony award-winning star of Hamilton), a dreadlocked parolee who is three days away from being a free man, and firebrand Miles (Casal), all tattooed attitude and OG swagger.
Their friendship has always been the one thing that has remained constant, against a backdrop of gentrification and simmering unrest that are changing the city beyond recognition. There’s a street-level clash of cultures between the old-school grit of the hood and the incoming hipsters, tooling about on needlessly complicated push bikes and quaffing $10 kale smoothies.
But the friendship is strained after Collin witnesses the fatal shooting of a young black man by a white policeman. He realises that Miles’s white privilege allows him to toy with the same thug-life cliches that African American men such as Collin carefully avoid.
Meanwhile, Miles is furious that the trendy newcomers to the area have adopted his street style – it’s an appropriation of an appropriation, but Miles’s short fuse burns out before he can appreciate the irony.
What could have been laboured and polemical is deftly handled, defused with comedy and powered by a pulsating score. Dialogue that slides into rap at key moments adds a heartfelt sense of honesty. This is the real deal
FRIDAY 26 APRIL
Doors: 7.30pm Film: 8pm
While there has been plenty of focus on Spike Lee's evocation of racism in the 70's, in Blackkklansman, this refreshingly original film, which cover many of the same themes even more deftly and in a contemporary setting, has flown under the radar.
Convicted felon Collin is just trying to make it through his final three days of probation, but out one night he witnesses a white cop kill an unarmed black man. You might expect this to then become laboured and polemical, but this film completely wrong foots you. Scenes swerve from hilarity to high tension, but the suspense is in service to a conscientious goal. Blindspotting also weaves poetry into its characters’ everyday lives, with striking results and fans of the brilliant stage musical Hamilton will find much to admire here.
By equal turns tense and witty but with plenty of perceptive social commentary to go around, Blindspotting boasts an embarrassment of visual, narrative and poetic riches and it deserves and demands to be seen.
Director: Carlos López Estrada
Writer: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs
Cinematographer: Robby Baumgartner
Starring: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar
Running time: 95 mins.