‘Driving While Black’ receives rave reviews during RiverRun International Film Festival

‘Driving While Black’  receives rave reviews during RiverRun International Film Festival
April 14
00:00 2016



In most cases, racial profiling is no laughing matter. That is, until now.

In the new film “Driving While Black,” that played last week at the RiverRun International Film Festival, co-directors Paul Sapiano and Dominique Purdy use comedy to address the growing trend of police officers pulling over blacks more often than whites.

Sapiano, who is white, said the idea for the film began when Purdy, who grew up in Los Angeles, began telling stories about how the police would pull him over on a regular basis for no reason . During an interview with The Chronicle, Sapiano said at first he didn’t believe him, but after riding around with the star of the film, he soon found out Purdy was telling the truth.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” said Sapiano. “After riding around with Dominique and seeing what he and others face on a regular basis, we decided to start writing the script.”

The dark comedy follows Dimitri, an inspiring artist in his everyday struggle to make a living delivering pizzas, but as a young black man, he is faced with extra challenges navigating the busy streets of Los Angeles. Throughout the film, Dimitri has to deal with constant harassment from a number of police.

Sapiano said he loved the idea of using comedy to address a serious topic. He mentioned he wanted to do something that had not been done before.

“There have been a number of dramas on the topic, but there has never been a comedy. We wanted to do something different,” Sapiano said.

Although the film is filled with laughs, it is also deeply rooted in reality. A number of studies done in recent years have proved that black drivers are more likely to be pulled over for minor violations than whites. Here in the Triad, blacks make up more than 50 percent of drivers pulled over.

Following a showing last Sunday, Purdy mentioned comedy has a way of introducing people to a topic that they otherwise wouldn’t pay attention to or know anything about. Purdy also told the packed house at the Hanes brand Theatre that the film reflects his own personal encounters with the LAPD.

“This is an everyday thing for the black community,” said Purdy. “As soon as the police get behind you, even if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you get that feeling that you may get pulled over.”

Purdy mentioned the film will make more people aware and teach valuable lessons as well. He said the main thing he wants people to take away from the film is that this issue is everyone’s problem.

“The film can teach people who get pulled over how to remain calm,” he continued. “That can make a big difference, especially for people of color.”

After the final showing of the film last weekend, a number of festival goers said the movie does a great job of balancing real life situations with comic relief. Many also echoed Purdy’s statement that the film could be used as a learning tool. “The film doesn’t hide or sugarcoat anything . That’s what I appreciate most , “Veronica Rodriguez said.

Dr. Carlton A.G. Eversley of Winston -Salem said he thought the film was very relatable. Eversley, who teaches at Carter G. Woodson School, said it is very important that people of color have a plan, especially when dealing with police.

“The film was amazing,” said Eversley. “Unfortunately, for black people in America, this is a real issue. The film shows our youth that sometimes you may be angry, it’s best to just remain calm to ensure you make it home safely.”

For now, “Driving While Black” can only be viewed in its entirety at various film festivals across the nation. According to Sapiano, they are working on a major distribution deal.

For more information on the film and to watch a clip, visit

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