In Colin in Black & White, former football star Colin Kaepernick – the man who knelt down during the US national anthem before games to protest police brutality – looks back on his life. Kaepernick, along with filmmaker Ava DuVernay, wrote a kind of cross between documentary and drama. A hybrid form in which Kaepernick’s voice is actually constantly present, whether in the voiceover or not, or in the cutscenes in which he comments on his romanticized self, played by Jaden Michael. It quickly becomes clear that Kaepernick’s life story lends itself perfectly to a broader perspective on racism in sports and racism in the United States.
Kaepernick is the son of two white adoptive parents and did not come into contact with black culture until later in his youth. This immediately leads to some moving scenes in the first episode, like when the future athlete first walks into a barbershop where black Americans have their hair done. But Kaepernick wants cornrows, his braided hair, and that is not done if you want to exercise with your neighbor, because then you look like a “thug” and a criminal. And although his parents (big roles of Mary-Louise Parker and Nick Offerman) initially don’t have too much of a problem with that, they change their minds when the baseball coach calls: Colin needs to go to the barber.
This anecdote is again linked to a larger story: how basketball star Allen Iverson was described as a criminal around 15-20 years ago, because of his looks. What DuVernay and Kaepernick do next is present the viewer with the antonym of these prejudices; by offering a course on black culture. In scenes made with a lot of love, without pedantic gestures. Because love is perhaps the modus operandi of DuVernay, who invariably makes beautiful dramas – see Selma (2014) and When They See Us (2019) – which can also be described as critical pamphlets on American America. ‘today.
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Colin’s only black and white Achilles heel is that the construction of the sequence becomes apparent whenever Kaepernick interrupts another scene. It sometimes seems a little contrived. But that the life of the man who did not want to give in to criticism should now be brought to light in this way is entirely justified.
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