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Ava DuVernay successfully humanizes Kap in Colin in Black & White
Academy Award Nominee filmmaker Ava DuVernay collaborates with athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick for the Netflix limited series Colin in Black & White. Throughout six episodes, Kaepernick’s coming of age story is chronicled. The series tackles the obstacles of class, race, and culture, giving us a look into the mind of young Colin Kaepernick (Jaden Michael), a Black adopted child of a white family. Colin Kaepernick himself appears as the present-day narrator of his own story, guiding viewers through a robust and colorfully presented array of historical and contemporary contextual moments. You don’t know Kaepernick until you know Colin.
Before reaching the highest levels of American football as an NFL quarterback and becoming a cultural icon and activist, Colin Kaepernick spent his days growing up in California being raised by well-meaning parents Rick (Nick Offerman) and Teresa (Mary-Louise Parker). A naturally talented athlete, Colin excels in basketball, football, and baseball. While his parents don’t make a huge deal about it, Colin knows there’s something different about him, and the handling of the material makes Colin in Black & White a winning series.
Ava DuVernay directs the first episode and all of the present-day scenes that Kaepernick narrates. DuVernay directs Kaepernick with great lighting, that allows the commentary he provides to come across organically. Kaepernick provides insightful tidbits that tie into the central themes of each episode. While I won’t spoil all of the themes, some of the things touched on include successful correlation to the NFL Draft and slave auctions, a history on the word thug, and a passionate soliloquy on Allen Iverson.
In our lead role, Jaden Michael is a revelation, and this is one of the performances that can make someone a star. Similar to Kaepernick, Michael possesses natural athleticism and has a likable charm. The series never has a moment where Colin showcases activism. Instead, the role is portrayed as a bi-racial young man who has to code switch and conform to standards he doesn’t always agree with or understand.
Furthermore, there are some great scenes with his adoptive parents Rick (Nick Offerman) and Teresa (Mary-Louise Parker). Offerman and Parker play the roles of out-of-touch parents who mean well but won’t always relate to Colin’s journey. One humorous moment in Episode 1 involves the seasoning of food, while another episode focuses on air conditioning (you’ll know it when you see it). What I loved about these moments, is that while they are played for humor, there’s also a lesson.
In addition to Ava DuVernay, there is a ton of talent behind the camera. Sheldon Candis, Angel Kristi Williams, and Kenny Leon all get to direct an episode. While the legend himself, Robert Townsend, directs two. Kris Bowers also conducts a beautiful score that goes along perfectly with the theme of the series.
Like NBC’S Young Rock, Colin in Black & White does a wonderful job of humanizing a sports figure with a relatable story. My only gripe with the show is we only get six episodes.
Final Grade: A
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