How is it that rappers are killin’ it in the film industry in 2018?
On July 20th of this year, the film Blindspotting written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, released in movie theaters. The film centers on a formerly incarcerated man, Collin, played by Diggs, and his friendship with Miles, played by Casal, as they combat with gentrification, police violence, and race relations in their town of Oakland, California on Collin’s last few days of probation. With director Carlos López Estrada’s attention to detail, the well written rap and verse throughout as an arch, and the complexities of each and every character, the film is amazing.
Not only did I appreciate seeing Diggs’ and Casal’s work outside of #BARS Mixtape Musical Medley Volumes 1 and 2 which Estrada also directed, I appreciated the amount of work they took into creating a film that makes me ask questions. With this and Sorry to Bother You’s social commentary, it only makes me crave the want of more creative rappers to create more films for wider audiences.
What mostly stood out to me in watching this film was how well Blindspotting portrayed the cycle of systemic oppression for black people; especially within the realm of incarceration and police violence, and the variances of accountability that comes with it all.
This is primarily Collin’s story about the lack of privileges that placed him in prison and not Miles, and how much the audience wonders whether or not he can get through his last days of probation without an incident. Especially with a friend who causes as much trouble as Miles. Although that is definitely true, there is also a younger boy’s story is worth paying attention to.
Miles is married to Ashley, played by Jasmine Cephas Jones, and they raise a biracial child together, Sean. At such a young age, Ashley has already been showing Sean pamphlets and lessons around knowing your rights and how to engage with police. In one scene, when Colin points as Sean to stop rough-housing, Sean cries “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” as a means of practicing for when a police officer should point at him with a gun.
When we talk about attention to detail, Collin is portrayed by a biracial actor as well, and with both black biracial men seen on screen together, the viewer sees the inevitable of history repeating itself for a many black men, circumstantial or not. Not just black men in Oakland, but black men in the United States as a country. This is certainly not the first film willing to display the ongoing vicious cycle of oppression for black men, but this is the first film I’ve seen that actively makes an audience member continue asking questions about it instead of having an answering directly served to them on what to do about it.
How do we make a world safe enough for black men to live their lives without having to worry about the risk of bodily harm, or institutionalized harm?
How do we make a world safe enough for black people to continue to live in the beloved homes they grew up in without property demand forcing them out?
Besides media, how else can we make black people be seen, valued, and supported as individuals and not as mere bodies for to be swept under the rug, or only relevant for financial/systemic gain?
According to Diggs and Casal, this project took nine years to create, and yet this still stands as a reflection of our current times. We’ve heard similar stories of powerful movies such as Dear White People and Sorry to Bother You taking so long to make, but still so relevant today.
If you have not seen this film, please go see it. Especially if you’re a writer, you will greatly appreciate how in-depth Blindspotting is as a written piece of art, not just a visual piece.