Blindspotting - 2018
Director(s): Carlos López Estrada
Writer(s): Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs
Cinematography by: Robby Baumgartner
Editor(s): Gabriel Fleming
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Tisha Campbell-Martin
Every once in a while, you come across a movie that has so much love and passion in it that you immediately get sucked into the world presented. The characters feel like longtime friends, the streets beckon you to take a long stroll down memory lane and the corner store always has your favorite refreshments. Blindspotting welcomes you to Oakland, and even if you’ve never been here before it will feel like home thanks to the love and care Casal and Diggs poured into each word of their script.
I came into this movie with zero expectations. I was vaguely aware that it was one of the most highly praised movies to come out of this year’s Sundance, but the buzz had died down by the time it reached mainstream audiences. Walking out of this movie I was dumbstruck as to why this movie isn’t a major hit.
The story centers around lifelong friends Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal). They work at a moving company, helping longtime residents of Oakland move out and the new wave of “hipsters” move in as their streets are faced with gentrification. While trying to get back to his halfway house before missing curfew, Collin witnesses a violent altercation between a black man and a white cop. The ghost of this event haunts him for the entirety of the final 3-days of his parole, leading him to rethink how he sees the world and the people around him.
Carlos López Estrada knocked his directorial debut straight out the park. Backed by an incredible script, López created and maintained a tone that managed to straddle the line between drama and comedy, always keeping the audience on their toes. Playing with angles, lighting and blocking, this movie has a unique look and feel that you don’t expect from a first-time director. I loved how he illustrated the mundane daily routine of Collin, and how it slowly changes thanks to the brain-worm of the event that won’t leave him alone. There is a dream sequence that took me by surprise. It has Collin facing the judge again and Miles is the prosecutor. Collin can’t speak, since every time he wants to say a word a bullet falls from his mouth as Miles just digs a bigger hole for him further condemning him to life in jail. It’s visually impactful and edited in a way that you are just holding on for dear life.
The story is also unique. While it tackles racism, cop violence, stereotyping and bi-racial relationships, it touches on a subject that I never really gave too much thought to: gentrification. By definition, gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste, but in practice it’s society’s way of painting over the cracks and imperfections that make them uncomfortable, pretending it’s the new hip place they just found at the cost of the history and life impregnated in the walls they just painted.
There is a moment in the story in where Collin and Miles get hired to clean out a house. The new owner, a young white hipster tells them to clean out all the “junk” and throw it in the dumpster. Once inside we see family albums and picture of the life that once ran through this house and now it’s simply junk in the way of the perfect “cool” house just bought. When you walk into your latest brunch place, you rarely think of the history that was erased by your eggs benedict.
Blindspotting is one of the most original movies to come-out this year. At times, it feels like a musical, as Miles and Collin freestyle while they work, walk and drive. The climax of the movie feels like a cathartic def jam poem being yelled at the root of the protagonist problems. It’s a buddy comedy, a romance movie, a love letter to Oakland and an exploration of the consequences of gentrification. Diggs and Casal managed to cram in all of this in a 95 min runtime that flies by leaving you wanting more. One of the few movies of this year that I see myself adding to my collection. This movie is why I love movies.
Blindspotting is currently playing in theaters. Go support it - very few movies like this come around.
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