Title: Driving While Black
MPAA Rating: N/A
Director: Paul Sapiano
Starring: Dominique Purdy, Sheila Tejada, Mayank Bhatter
Runtime: 94 min
What It Is: A comedic (somewhat dramatic) film about a regular black man in America, and his daily interactions with the law. Dissecting both the emotional range, and reasons, for what is a important current conversation; Driving While Black lets us see how the law is enforced through Dimitri’s (Dominique Purdy) eyes.
What We Think: Halfway through this dramedy, two officers discuss racial profiling. While one is opposed, the other justifies the need by calling out a well dressed white male in a predominantly black neighborhood; nicknaming the clearly prejudicial action as “race out of place.” This film is gifted in explaining the multilayered description behind that simplistic comment. From main character Dimitri’s (Purdy) daily struggle to overcome the simple act of driving without being pulled over, to Officer Borty-Lio’s (Sheila Tejada) internal struggle in the Anglo male-dominated profession of law enforcement, the movie’s simple storyline is what drives the message deep. It’s simplistic as it follows Dimitri in his mundane routine of working, loving, and existing. The movie misses the typical additions of overly violent, intimidating, or criminal portrayals often put on black men in movies. This circumvents victim blaming arguments often presented in these conversations and allows for the audience to truly see the commonality of Minority profiling by law enforcement. Dimitri’s encounters with police and other people of color are highlighted and dissected for the audience in an attempt to give insight into the true weight behind the overuse of power. The writers opted to humanize the aggressive officers, as well as balance them with outspoken coworkers who speak out, but in a way that enlightens the audience as to why the conversation is still stuck on an infinite loop. The average believability of not only Dimitri but surrounding characters of Hispanic, South Asian, and Pacific Islander descent keeps the story from losing its purpose to unrelatable coincidence.
Our Grade: A-, The movie is rough, in a way that a restricted budget amongst Hollywood blockbusters would appear, but it never feels wasteful with its screen time. Driving While Black drives home the emotion behind its namesake, spotlighting each step that leads to Dimitri’s eventual anger. If you’re not upset too then watch it again, it’s worth the 94 minutes of knowledge.
Your friendly melanin gifted movie goer.