Park City • With issues of women’s equality, sexual misconduct and political turmoil heavy on the movie world’s mind, Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper said he wanted to start the 2018 edition with a movie that’s “fun to the point of sassy.”
Cooper delivered that to a receptive Park City audience Thursday with the comedy-drama “Blindspotting,” a raucous, rap-filled and often revealing story of male friendship on the rapidly gentrifying streets of Oakland, Calif.
Daveed Diggs, who co-starred and co-wrote with his longtime writing partner Rafael Casal, told the Eccles Center Theatre audience that “Blindspotting” was a nine-year journey from idea to finished film.
“Most of this was done on long car trips on the 5 [Interstate 5] from the Bay to L.A.,” said Diggs, his gold patent-leather shoes as shiny as the Tony he earned for playing the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the original production of “Hamilton.”
Casal said Diggs’ work on “Hamilton” was fortuitous, as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play showcased the same rap performance skills he displays in the movie. “Now I think people will understand this [movie] even more,” Casal said.
Diggs and Casal play Collin and Miles, best friends who grew up together in Oakland. The friendship is strained, as Collin fears the impending end to his year on probation for a felony will be jeopardized by hanging out with the hotheaded Miles. The two men work for a moving company, and many of their clients are yuppies and hipsters who are turning their once-rough neighborhood into a haven for juice cleanses and Whole Foods Markets.
The audience reacted strongly and positively to the movie, shot in 22 days by director Carlos Lopez Estrada, particularly Diggs’ rapid-fire rap performance toward the movie’s end.
The evening began with the traditional welcome from Robert Redford. The Sundance Kid, 81, had words of advice for festival veterans and newcomers alike.
“To those who have [been here before], I hope you see something that refreshes your thinking of independent film,” Redford told the Eccles audience. “To those of you who are new here, I think this is a place for discovery.”
The festival gets going full blast Friday, with screenings across Park City, and at venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort.