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TIFF 2021 Review: Colin in Black and White – “Will spark debate”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick uses his life story to demonstrate how racism towards Blacks by Whites has become ingrained in American society.

Back in 2016, Colin Kaepernick became more famous for kneeling during the U.S. national anthem in protest police violence against Black Americans than his athletic prowess in the NFL.  The personal action sparked a national controversy and he has been ‘unofficially’ exiled from playing professional football.  Partnering with filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Kaepernick serves as the creator, host and narrator of a Netflix six-part limited series that explores the events that shaped his life and laid the groundwork for the infamous decision.

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The best way to describe the biographical series which makes use of slick graphics to provide historical context and enforce a specific point of view as well as re-enactments is Malcolm in the Middle meets Michael Moore.  There are insights into human nature such as individuals being drawn to people who are at least a partial reflection of themselves.  It is a coming-of-age tale where a teenager becomes aware that there are those who view him to be a societal threat because of the colour of his skin.  The revelation at first begins to wear him down but subsequently strengthens his resolve to succeed.

A first-rate production value combined with creative innovation enables the proceedings to keep a fast pace.  Satirical wit is used to demonstrate how language can be used to demean an individual such as in play-by-play job interview sequence.  Situations ring true with Whites being uncomfortable in the presence of Blacks to the point of hostility.  Episode 101 establishes the point of view with Black athletes literally being transformed into plantation slaves.   One has to wonder if the system is so stacked in favour of whites how did Kaepernick succeed?  Granted he is God-like in his athletic abilities but help had to come from within the system to defeat it.  This aspect is glossed over which only emphasizes the White versus Black approach to the subject matter.  It certainly will spark debate which is a good thing but will not bridge the racial divide.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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