'Blindspotting' Stars Discuss Why Oakland Is Having a "Moment" at the Movies

The writer-director-star and actress also discuss how their film reflects a "social condition" when it comes to American policing.

First features are always special for their directors, but for Rafael Casal, his debut, Blindspotting, held extra resonance because it was shot in his hometown.

“The thing about the Bay Area is we don’t get a lot of movies. We’re having a little bit of a moment right now,” Casal, who co-wrote the film along with star Daveed Diggs, told The Hollywood Reporter In Studio alongside co-star Janina Gavankar. 

Casal shot the film in Oakland, which is also the setting for the July film Sorry to Bother You and parts of Marvel's Black Panther.

“It became this weird task of representation. If we only get one shot at this, what are the kinds of people we need to see? What are the kinds of stories that we need to tell?” he explained. “Really from the top of the film, we’re just sprinkling Oakland on every moment.”  

Casal and Diggs originally sat down to write the hip-hop flavored Blindspotting, which focuses on class and crime in a gentrifying Oakland, 10 years ago. But as the film started to evolve, it began to reflect a more contemporary American context.  

“We started writing this thing when we thought shouting off the rooftops about police violence and the tension between black and brown bodies and the authority in the city was going to do something, and what we learned is that it doesn’t,” Casal said. “After we started writing it and watched that change, the movie really became about how interesting it is and how much of a social condition it is that we can all stare at the same circumstances and feel completely different about it,” he added.

Casal’s co-star Gavankar discussed her experience screening the film and hosting Q&As with audiences around the country and why her stop in Yellow Springs, Ohio was important.  

“I was lucky enough to join my friend Dave Chappelle. He brought the film to his hometown and I thought it was going to be a hilarious Q&A. It was not,” she said. “They’re dealing with some of their [own] questions about policing and it was a very quiet, very introspective conversation that a community clearly needed to be having with itself."

This, she said, is one of the reasons the film not only travels to what she calls "the expected places," but also “I hope it gets to travel to smaller communities as well.”

Blindspotting is in theaters now.