A blue-collar town shows America’s class and race divide
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Opens August 27
2018 is shaping up as a banner year for black cinema. Three of the most talked-about films cover the African-American experience with a complexity seldom seen: Sorry to Bother You, BlacKkKlansman and Blindspotting all stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
Blindspotting doesn’t have the scope of BlacKkKlansman but it’s the most well-rounded of the bunch. The brainchild of hip-hop artist Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) and poet Rafael Casal, Blindspotting is a dramedy that follows two friends/co-workers over a weekend in Oakland. Colin (Diggs) is three days away from finishing his probation. Of course they will be the longest 72 hours of his life, particularly after his compadre, the hothead Miles (Casal), buys a gun for protection.
Miles doesn’t just put Colin’s freedom in jeopardy — the jailbird witnesses the murder of a black man at hands of a white cop, and getting involved seems inadvisable in his situation.
There are plenty of dark corners in Blindspotting but also levity. Diggs and Casal use their real-life friendship to push each other into unconventional territory. Every so often the gun reappears to stir the pot. The old rule, “if you show a gun in the first act, you should expect it to go off by the third” is used to subvert expectations brilliantly.
Ultimately, this is a film about breaking the black/white divide. In a normal movie, Colin would come to terms with the fact Miles brings him down, and cut him loose. Blindspotting values class awareness and loyalty higher, so the decision is not as clear. The movie also highlights the tensions that come from gentrification. Once a blue-collar hub, Oakland is enduring an influx of hipsters escaping San Francisco rents, driving up prices and occupying space that used to belong to the working class.
The ending is bold and works proportionally to the audience’s investment on the characters: it can be exhilarating or take you out of the movie entirely. Regardless, we must admire Blindspotting’s willingness to go for broke.