'Blindspotting' is a Painfully Poetic Love Letter to Oakland

'Blindspotting' is a Painfully Poetic Love Letter to Oakland

Daveed Diggs is best known for originating the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the smash hit Hamilton: An American Musical, but his nearly decade-long process to deliver Blindspotting, his leading feature film debut co-written with his best friend Rafael Casal (who also stars) proves that he is so much more than the voice behind "Guns and Ships."

Blindspotting tells the story of Collin (Diggs) a black man out on probation after serving time for an altercation outside a bar where he used to be a bouncer, three days before his probation ends. Collin spends a majority of his time with his best friend Miles (Casal), a white man desperately looking for his identity, having grown up alongside Collin in Oakland's predominately black suburb. The two work together to find their way in an increasingly gentrifying city, with hilarious moments like realizing the local bodega where they buy $1 loose cigarettes has started selling fancy cold-pressed juices for $10; that their favorite fast-food joint has defaulted to vegan items and asking for beef is a special accommodation; or attempting to sell a small sailboat by calling it "artisan."

Things take a stark turn, however, when Collin witnesses a white cop shoot a black man in the street. Collin does and says nothing, even joking the next day about how it would go down if a black convicted felon called to report witnessing a white cop shoot a black man while he was waiting at a stoplight, breaking his probationary set curfew. This moment stays with him throughout the film, often appearing in mind-altering nightmares with imagery as powerful as Childish Gambino's "This Is America."

The juxtaposition between Collin and Miles' life experiences, despite having grown up in the same neighborhood, is frequently used for laughs and highlights a traditional "black guy/white guy buddy comedy" trope. It's when the reality of these experiences are pointed out — like how they differ in their fear of a police presence — that Blindspotting truly shines. Miles and Collin bond over class and circumstance, but they are forever separated by race and the privilege that comes with it.

As Diggs and Casal are both poetic wordsmiths, there are frequent bursts of freestyle rhyming, and the most gripping moment of the entire film is paired alongside Diggs' devastating rhyming intensity. There isn't a single moment of this film that follows a traditional convention, but rather it takes inspiration from what came before and presents it in an entirely new form.

Two minutes after a scene completely guts you from its harsh realism, you'll find yourself laughing at the banter between Diggs and Casal. This slice of life showcases all of the moments that make a life worth living, and does so with expertly crafted comedy and criticism.

Blindspotting opens at the Cedar Lee on July 27.

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