Lionsgate successfully fought off challenges from CBS Films, NEON, MoviePass, and The Orchard to secure North American distribution rights to “Blindspotting” for an undisclosed price. The film screened at Sundance on opening night January 18, as part of its U.S. Dramatic Competition. A 2018 theatrical release will be handled by Lionsgate’s Codeblack Films and Summit Entertainment.
“Hamilton” Tony-winner Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal star as Oakland, California friends and rap enthusiasts — one black, one white. Nearing the end of his probation, the former needs to stay out of trouble, a task complicated by his pal’s handgun and the ever-present threat of neighborhood violence. Diggs and Casal wrote the script together and serve as producers.
“We could not be more excited,” they said in a statement with first-time feature director Carlos López Estrada. “We know from experience that our new partners are not afraid to push boundaries and try something new.”
In November, Diggs appeared in the Lionsgate film “Wonder,” which has made over $250 million at the worldwide box office. López Estrada received a 2012 Latin Grammy for the short form music video “Me voy,” and this month he was recognized at the Palm Springs International Film Festival as one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch (Best Director Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig was a fellow honoree) .
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“Blindspotting” was also produced by financiers Keith and Jess Calder, of Snoot Entertainment. “Codeblack and Lionsgate have proven to be champions of bold, risk-taking filmmakers and there is no one we trust more to introduce ‘Blindspotting’ to the world,” they said. Jason Constantine, Lionsgate’s president of acquisitions and co-productions, described the feature as “incredible.”
Casal, Diggs, and López Estrada recently joined “Blindspotting” castmates Jasmine Cephas Jones and Janina Gavankar at the IndieWire Sundance Studio presented by Dropbox. “After I read it, it was just amazing to see that my friends have worked on this for like 10 years,” said Cephas Jones, who was in the original Broadway company of “Hamilton” with Diggs.
“Generally, when people are taking on the monumental task of doing their first film, you go for the things that you have an intricate knowledge of,” said Casal. “What we had was this longstanding upbringing in the Bay Area, and a deep relationship with the arts scene there, and with heightened language there and street culture there.”
Watch below to learn more about the making of “Blindspotting.”