Essence: 'Blindspotting' Fuses Comedy And Drama To Explore Race, Gentrification, And The Traps Of Probation
Daveed Diggs’ new movie will stun you into silence — when it’s not making you laugh.
Blindspotting, is a tense, powerful, heart-pounding representation of the fear, terror, and long-lasting trauma of Black engagement with police — mixed with all the humor and familiarity of a classic best-friends-who-work-together comedy.
Daveed Diggs is Collin, a Black man in Oakland, finishing the final three days of his probation — a detail that brings an inherent tension that will take you nearly through to the end credits.
“He is almost done [with his probation] but if you know anybody that’s been on probation, or if you’re on probation yourself, you know that it’s a series of traps set up to try and send you back to jail,” Diggs says to ESSENCE. “On his way home from work one night he witnesses the police shooting of an unarmed Black man and he’s the only person that witnesses it. Collin’s story is really about how the next three days and the PTSD of that event force their way into his daily life and get him to a place of sort of unraveling.”
Collin spends his last 72 hours under the watchful eye of the state, in the fear of engaging the police, all while living his regular, but entertaining, life. He works for a moving company, hangs out with friends and family, all while routinely finding his way to the halfway house he’s called home for 11 months, three weeks, and four days. His days offer him one scenario after another that call into question whether or not he’ll run out the clock to the “freedom” on the other side of probation.
The film, while chest-tighteningly tense at times, is interspersed with moments of levity. Audiences are left to think about the ways you view this man living in the system and in a poor neighborhood that’s rapidly gentrifying.
“We took a lot of care to make Collin pretty sympathetic, it’s built in a way for you to relate to him,” says Diggs. “There are circumstances that [Collin] gets into that a certain cross-section of people may have never felt before. And if you feel them and feel real empathy for Collin, who is an ex-con for a violent crime, who you witness wielding guns in the film, if you can develop an empathy for him, maybe it can extend to our real lives.”
There’s also a narrative about race that’s not focused exclusively on blackness, but also on being white in a space and culture that is Black-dominated.
Rafael Casal, who plays Miles, Collin’s best friend (also Diggs’ real-life best friend) and Oakland native, said his character is someone who’s more difficult to connect with.
“Miles’ experience is the harder thing to sort of empathize with and understand. The short of it is Miles is a white man in a Black and brown neighborhood,” Casal says. “He’s always been a minority among minorities. So much of the conversation around Miles is that he’s always had to fight to survive in the hood. They’re from a poor neighborhood which comes along with violence and toxic male culture and he’s had to really fight much more than a lot of people to claim his space and stand up for himself.”
Beyond worth the price of admission, the film also has not only an outstanding story but a few messages for you interrogate for yourself. It gives you a chance to view the world through the lens of a man trying to make good on his past in a city and a culture that presents him every chance to go completely wrong.
Blindspotting is now playing in select theaters. Hear the full interview with Diggs and Casal here.