“Blindspotting,” the debut film from director Carlos Lopez Estrada, filters an essay on privilege, gentrification and violence through the lens of one relationship. Colin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal) have been friends since childhood but still have much to learn from one another.
Set in Oakland, California the bulk of the action takes place over the course of Colin’s last three days of probation on an assault and battery charge. Living in a halfway house, Colin works as a mover, with best friend Miles, for his ex-girlfriend Val (Janina Gavankar) and has a strict curfew of 11 pm. He’s trying desperately to stay out of trouble but Miles, a loudmouth who carries a gun, is a loose cannon, always on the edge of blowing up the situation. When Colin witnesses a cop shoot an unarmed African-American man in the back he’s plagued by nightmares and an increasing sense of trauma and dread. A situation at a party that escalates out of control forces Colin to assess his place in the world, or at least, his place in a rapidly gentrifying Oakland.
“Blindspotting” is a happily undisciplined a movie. Raw and brimming with ideas, it’s an exciting look at contemporary life that kicks preconceive notions of storytelling to the curb. Co-writers and co-stars Diggs and Casal weave a story that bristles with provactive ideas. Funny one moment, tragic the next, it confronts the viewers ideas not only on the narrative form of the storytelling but the stereotypes so often used to portray people of colour in movies.
Director Estrada builds tension all the way through leading up to a surreal showdown that brings the story into sharp focus.
Despite many stylish flourishes “Blindspotting” feels authentic. Perhaps it’s because of the warm camaraderie between Diggs and Casal or perhaps it’s because of the sense of nuance given to large scale issues of race, loyalty and class.