This story contains some spoilers for the film Blindspotting.
Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs believe the right words can dress wounds. The Oakland-bred duo, who wrote and co-star in the new movie, Blindspotting, speak of poetry as both craft and balm.
Directed by Carlos López Estrada, Blindspotting is half social drama, half choreopoem. The film follows two lifelong best friends, Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal), as they adjust to changes in their immediate lives and in the city that shaped them. Blindspotting’s protagonists have grown alongside one another for years, but the story finds them—and a rapidly gentrifying Oakland—at a crossroads.The film oozes with Bay Area vitality. It booms and rattles. It bounces and bends. Oakland is both backdrop and character.
Blindspotting could have easily dramatized the gore of the violence its characters witness and enact; but it differs from other works that address similar subjects (police brutality, gentrification) in its choice of form. Casal and Diggs, who pull from backgrounds in poetry and music, imbue the film with a distinctly rhythmic cadence. The poetry of their characters’ friendship is a constant refrain. Collin and Miles speak in ciphers; their banter is layered, complex, lyrical. The way the two men wrap language through, around, and between the difficult moments in their lives is at once reflective of their upbringing and of the depth of the traumas they face.
In one of Blindspotting’s first scenes, Collin witnesses a white police officer fatally shoot a young black man. With three days of probation left (and with an attendant curfew hanging over him), Collin must race back to his court-mandated dwelling after seeing the shooting. He’s unable to intervene or even react immediately, but the effects of what he saw weigh on him throughout the film. He has nightmares. He fights with Miles. He tries to quite literally outrun his demons. In one of the film’s most dramatic scenes, Collin confronts the police officer not with violence but with verse. The effect is jarring for Collin, Miles, the officer—and the audience.