Netflix’s new limited series spotlights coming-of-age story of Colin Kaepernick

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(Last Updated On: November 4, 2021)

Colin in Black & White. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Award-winning filmmaker, Ava DuVernay and Colin Kaepernick masterfully turn the cinematic lens on the formative years of the former NFL player-turned-activist in Netflix’s new limited, six-episode, series, Colin in Black and White. The series takes viewers back to a time when Kaepernick was just a boy with a dream, long before he was thrust into the national spotlight. With a refreshing coming-of-age vibe, the executive-producing duo shines the spotlight on a young Colin’s high school years and his burning passion to play professional football, and his awakening to the reality of racial bias in America.

At the onset, series co-creators, DuVernay and Kaepernick, cut to the chase and spare no punches with a powerful depiction of the ugly roots of racism in America. The first scene opens on Kaepernick describing how NFL players are sought after for their athletic prowess and intensely pressured to maintain their strength and physicality by coaches and franchise owners honed in on generating profits. In a cinematic blink of an eye, the scene changes as the line of athletes on the football field transitions into a line of slaves at the auction block being inspected and sold to the highest bidder. It is the first of several, well-placed, historical references that provide context for the racism in America that has had a chokehold on the country since its founding.

In Colin in Black and White, it is said that DuVernay opted to not give an autobiographical account of Kaepernick’s life story nor focus on the moment that placed the former NFL player in the cross-hairs of national controversy. Her aim instead was to allow Colin’s story to catapult viewers into a broader understanding of their own journeys. The familiar touchstones of family, peer pressure, and childhood dreams reverberate throughout the series as the producing duo unfolds with perfection the unique coming-of-age journey of a mixed-race boy, adopted and raised by Caucasian parents in a culture of racial bias. To bring historical and cultural context to Kaepernick’s back story, DuVernay also effectively infuses cultural nuances as well as accounts of other notable African Americans who faced and confronted the sting of racism in their own lives, like Allen Iverson (an athlete that Colin grew up admiring and sought to emulate), Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Huey Newton, Ida. B. Wells, Toni Morrison, and countless others.

Colin in Black & White. Colin Kaepernick as Colin in episode 101 of Colin in Black & White. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Kaepernick narrates and adds commentary throughout the series as an introspective spectator to his own life, and watches, along with the audience, as the hopeful outlook of his younger self comes face to face with the realization of what it means to be Black in America. We see a young Colin shored up by the support of parents who love him but in moments have blind spots to their own racial bias. Throughout the story, we see the teen struggling not to succumb to bitterness and self-pity on his journey to developing his own identity and finding his purpose.

In the final episode, Kaepernick is shown symbolically stepping across the threshold of time to leave a written note of encouragement to his younger self, which is a moment of cinematic genius. And much like Kaepernick offers encouragement to his younger self, Colin in Black and White offers encouragement to any person, young or old, in need of the inspiration to keep pursuing and persisting to fulfill their dreams and goals no matter the obstacles they may encounter.

This limited series is empowering and profound and worthy of being an Oscar-contender for its refreshing take and insightful infusion of historical context in the coming-of-age story of a young boy who dared to dream despite the roadblocks set before him. The creative union of a gifted filmmaker and the insight of a former NFL player-turned-activist gives viewers this introspective look at the first chapter in the life of Colin Kaepernick in this Netflix limited series. The series ends with a profound note to viewers: To the underestimated, the overlooked, and the outcast, trust your power.

The Netflix limited, six-episode, series, Colin in Black and White, launched Oct. 29, and features cast members: Jaden Michael, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Offerman, and Colin Kaepernick, and was co-created by Ava DuVernay and Colin Kaepernick, who served as executive producers along with Michael Starrbury. Directors included Ava Durvernay Sheldon Candis, Robert Townsend, Angel Kristi Williams, and Kenny Leon.