A raw and eye-opening commentary on race, gentrification and manhood, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal’s astounding Blindspotting electrifies Oakland on the big screen. The writing partners and childhood friends’ moving narrative is helmed by first-time feature filmmaker Carlos López Estrada. The story follows two men – best friends Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal) – a misfit pair trying to navigate the ever-changing landscape of their hometown.
With only three days left to complete his probation, Collin is determined to keep his nose clean, but the boisterous Miles seems to attract trouble at every turn. While Collin works carefully to mask his rage, witnessing the police murder an unarmed black man on the street one night brings it all bubbling to the surface. Miles, on the other hand, basks in his anger and not even his loving girlfriend, Ashley (Hamilton alum Jasmine Cephas Jones), or his pre-school age son can reel him in. Just before the film’s theatrical premiere, I talked with Diggs and Casal about Blindspotting, its origin and how they married raps and rhymes to construct such a powerful piece of art.
It turns out the film has been a long-time coming. “Almost ten years ago, the genesis of the idea formed,” Diggs said. “One of our producers found Rafael through a YouTube wormhole. They found a bunch of his poetry. I’d approached about writing a script using some of the same techniques that he used in his poems. A couple of years later, I was introduced to producers Jess and Keith because of a gig they had asked Rafael to do. He couldn’t make it, so I went and filled in. The four of us started speaking, and we decided we would start writing a film. The prompt was it would be about Oakland, it would be about the Bay, and it would star the two of us. Right after that, Oscar Grant was killed. We knew a film about Oakland had to encompass that.”
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