By Nelie Diverlus
Colin Kaepernick – a name that still resounds in our minds today. While him kneeling during the national anthem caused turmoil amongst patriots, and ultimately in his dismissal from the league, Kaepernick still teaches every day what it means to affirm your values, and to stand (in this case, kneel) in your truth. Colin in Black and White is a narrative that observes young Colin in his adolescence, learning about the world around him. Through the use of narration and strong visuals, the viewer begins to unravel the mystery that’s been alive for years – how did Colin become so bold?
Set in Turlock, California, the story centers the story of Colin Kaepernick – an activist and former NFL player. This film dives into some of the challenges Colin faced in his adolescent years, mostly surrounding his complex identity, in addition to toxic norms of masculinity. With his adoptive parents being white, Kaepernick increasingly finds it a struggle to navigate his Blackness, constantly grappling with his mixed-race identity and the confusion it ensues (both internally and externally). Through a strong narrative piece, in addition to thought-provoking visuals, Colin in Black and White cultivates a story of relatability for Black folks struggling to find their place in this world.
Colin serves as a version of a host in this narrative, guiding the viewer with narration to take a closer look at his early years and how they shaped the person he is today. Director Ava Duvernay competently builds upon her expertise in films rooted in activism – this film’s compositions and pace resemble those used in When They See Us; a Netflix short series directed by Duvernay. Her work is continuously shown to feature the use of blue and yellow hues successfully – when used in collaboration with one another, the depth of the characters is further projected.
“Her work is continuously shown to feature the use of blue and yellow hues successfully – when used in collaboration with one another, the depth of the characters is further projected.”
The visuals within this film are by far the most impressive aspect of the film as a whole. The changing backgrounds at the beginning of the film adds a level of depth to the story that is unfathomable – the viewer learns that this is a story of transformation and uncomfortable change. The comparisons used between old age and new age practices beautifully illustrate how history is cyclical; colonialism has left an everlasting mark on our world views, lifestyles, and most notably, identity. The blue, brown and yellow hues are nothing short of magnificent – we see each character vividly, as these hues support in illuminating their complexions.
The film’s use of non-diegetic sound compellingly supports in the movement and pace of the story. The music in the film not only assist in helping us understand the appropriate time period of this story, but it also serves as a bed track for identity; the selection of hip-hop music guides us towards understanding the culture of Turlock, California.
While the concept of narration helped propel the story forward, Colin Kaepernick’s tone did not feel quite right with the story. It is clear that narration is quite new to Colin, and this is shown with rigid pacing and awkward placements of emphasis. Perhaps he needed more direction with his words, as it felt as if he was unsure of himself.
“It is clear that narration is quite new to Colin, and this is shown with rigid pacing and awkward placements of emphasis.”
In short, Colin in Black and White provides adequate representation on confusion with identity, as well as provides us with a neat glimpse into the coming-of-age life of Colin Kaepernick. The process of blooming and transformation are two key themes within this film – young Colin is struggling to adapt to the constantly changing world surrounding him, and that is a trait shared amongst many of us, even throughout adulthood. We see the silent conversations present day Colin has with the younger version of ourselves, further teaching us what it means to heal your inner child.
Editor’s Note: Colin in Black and White screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ’21, as part of the Primetime/TIFF Next Wave programme.