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Driving While Black (2019) - Movie Review

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Driving While Black - Movie Review


The personal anecdotes that make up Driving While Black, a hilarious but scathing commentary on police profiling, are based in reality. Frightening.  That fact alone should make this film a must-see. The comedy, housed within Los Angeles, is unrelenting in its efforts to provide commentary on the racial profiling we continue to see happening in the 21st century.  Yet, thanks to the charisma of its writer and its star, Dominique Purdy, the commentary buried within the jokes never once comes across as being the lecture that it could have easily become.

Driving While Black, above everything else, is a comedy that is based in a tragic realism that can’t be disregarded. We have seen the cell phone video captures. We know the stories. And, because LA plays such a big role in this story, the movie has its roots in the riots that still haunt the bustling city. Purdy, in fact, gives us a bit of a history lesson through the eyes of his African American community. 

"Thoughtful and responsible, Driving While Black has its target in its sights and it is you and me.  Audience appreciation will take this film far."

And it leaves us with a smile on our face.  Because we know it to be true.

Directed and co-written by independent filmmaker Paul Sapiano, the weed is strong with this title. So, too, are the contemporary criticisms about over-policing in the modern age. The mix of both tonal techniques makes for an entertaining ride through the city.  Anything can happen when behind the wheel here.

Thankfully, the film is rather restrained when it comes to its handling of the cops, presenting both sides of the argument in a way that a lot of other films – especially tripping out of the gates of the big studios – would not.  Oh, we have our villains to be sure of, but the film is not out to put targets on the backs of every person in dark blue and that restraint goes a long way.

Dimitri (Purdy) just wants to be left alone with his art and his pizza deliveries. The LAPD have other ideas, though. Fortunately, Dimitri is our narrator and he gives us a bit of a lesson on his storied relationship with cops in the city . . . and it begins at an early age. Growing up in Los Angeles has taught Dimitri certain things about what to do when, as a black man, being pulled over by an officer of the law.

These stories range from hilarious to tragic and, as the pizza deliveries (through a series of events in a five-day period) eventually lead him to a much-needed job interview where he would get to chat up (and possibly insult) tourists on a Hollywood Tour bus, the cops are there every step of the way. In this way, the film showcases (rather hilariously) the faulty logic being employed by racial profiling some officers rely on.

And then, somewhere across Hollywood Boulevard, the film ceases being a simple-minded episodic comedy and the cops, now assigned to be on the lookout for a Ford Focus that matches the pizza delivery guy’s vehicle, tighten their focus on Dimitri. It is at this point where we, as the audience to Dimitri’s constant victimization, suddenly realize that we are going to witness something very threatening to him.  The tension mounts and mounts with no end in sight.  Something has to give.  Thankfully, it is not the aggression of the filmmakers here. Driving While Black - Movie Review

Suddenly, the realities that Driving While Black has been having fun with turns deadly serious. The movie’s ability to switch tones depending on the situation is perfectly played out here and, with competent strokes, this switch happens often and is always successful, even as it wrestles with the ambiguity of real life.  Thoughtful and responsible, Driving While Black has its target in its sights and it is you and me.  Audience appreciation will take this film far.

Celebrate Black History Month this February and watch some of the struggles African Americans face Driving While Black. The film will be available through On Demand digital services beginning February 1st.  Tackling a topic that should not be avoided, this film is yet another must-see from October Coast and Artist Rights Distribution.

4 stars

Driving While Black - Movie Review

MPAA Rating:
94 mins
: Paul Sapiano
Dominique Purdy, Paul Sapiano
Dominique Purdy, Sheila Tejada, John Mead
: Drama | Comedy
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Artist Rights Distribution
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 1, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: A comedy about the extra layer of police hassle that the young black man faces while driving. Dimitri delivers pizzas for a living, but he is offered a job driving a Hollywood tour bus - this film explores, with love, the black experience in everyday interactions with the police.

Driving While Black - Movie Review


Blu-ray Details:

No details available.

Driving While Black - Movie Review

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