DRIVING WHILE BLACK
Artist Rights Distribution
Director: Paul Sapiano
Screenwriter: Dominique Purdy, Paul Sapiano
Cast: Dominique Purdy, Sheila Tejada, John Mead
Screened at: Critics link, NYC,
Opens: February 1, 2018
The best way to convince an audience of your political reviews is not to bop them over the head in your desire to proselytize. People resist heavy-handed treatment, just as police get their dander up when suspects challenge their authority. The best film to hit home on that score last year, “Get Out,” is perhaps the best movie of 2017 because it finds much to criticize with one large segment—the progressives, or the liberals as they used to be called—who think that they have no racism in their DNA but are effectively exposed as hypocrites.
“Driving While Black” is itself a great title because like the Paul Sapiano’s film, it uses wordplay to impress its target audience. Director Sapiano, whose “The Boys Guide to Getting Down” in 2011 deals with sex, drugs and bad behavior, is in his métier with this latest contribution, as he hones in on a rough section of Los Angeles whose police, whether white or black, can sometimes be as much of a problem as the gangs. The comedy serves both to entertain and to caution those of us who think that the police can do no wrong given the extent of the criminal element. It is often flat-out hilarious. Credit Dominique Purdy, both the principal actor and co-writer, for a movie that will inevitably be well received in early 2018.
Dmitri (Dominique Purdy) is a typical young and hip black man who has the ghetto look—the hoodie, the baseball cap, the wtf attitude. He does not have a threatening look, though the cops would disagree, he means well in his attempt to get a job as a Hollywood tour guide, and even has an artistic bent, using hydrochloric acid, coat hangers and a blow torch for his projects. He smokes weed (not a biggie except to the cops) and hangs out with people whose attitude toward the men and women in blue often gets them and Dmitri in trouble.
Sapiano takes us on Dimitri’s pizza rounds and the hanging out episodes in Dimitri’s Ford Focus. Scenes that stand out include one in which the person to whom he is to deliver pizza is under arrest in the police vehicle as the arresting officers open the box and take their free slices. They love the pepperoni, and even feed the handcuffed suspect a bite.
The tension arises when Dimitri, on the way to an interview that would improve his life, is stopped, lined up, and insulted by police such as Officer McVitie (Peter Cilella), who is particularly racist as he received a vicious beating years back by five men. He is certain that Officer Borty-Lio (Sheila Tejada), the only really good cop, was promoted to sergeant over the men with more experience because of affirmative action.
The picture claims 32 festival wins and is most deserving of your time.
Rated R. 92 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+