Colin in Black and White
Aside from those who actively follow the US National Football League, much of the world had probably not heard of Colin Kaepernick until the 2016 season. Breaking with accepted protocols, the footballer opted to kneel during the national anthem before each game, to demonstrate his unwillingness to show pride in a country that systematically discriminates against Black people. It was a sober, peaceful protest, and Netflix apparently thought this warranted a limited series based upon the sportsman’s early life. They were somewhat correct.
In Turlock, California, in the sun-drenched 1990s, a young Kaepernick (Jaden Michael) is cultivating his formidable skills on the football field, while also coming to terms with his identity as the biracial child of his adoptive white parents, Rick (Nick Offerman) and Teresa (Mary-Louise Parker). These scenes are regularly intercut (or interrupted) by moments with the player himself directly addressing the camera as he comments on his younger life, and also reflects on historical and contemporary racial discrimination in the US.
Colin in Black & White contains two rather striking and interesting strands that have been clumsily mashed together, creating a hybrid affair that seems rather awkward at times. Kaepernick’s musings are intriguing and insightful, although the moment he appears on screen, any narrative momentum achieved by the dramatised reenactments of his earlier life is immediately torpedoed. The athlete is an earnest and amiable figure, but his delivery is far from perfect – especially his habit of staring introspectively off into the distance when he’s finished speaking, like he’s just realised he forgot to buy something at the supermarket.
Playing the younger version of the quarterback, Michael hits precisely the right notes, subtly hinting at the pain of injustice that would eventually give birth to activism. As his parents, Offerman and Parker are predictably delightful and get the lion’s share of the comedy. This isn’t due to any overt humour in the writing, but more about their sparkling delivery.
It’s not as though Kaepernick should be excised from his own show, as his presence enriches the story when he narrates scenes. However, this isn’t the case when he repeatedly stars in his own cutaways. The cumbersome formula needs some major tweaking, but Colin in Black and White is a likeable enough effort.
Colin in Black & White is released on Netflix on 29th October 2021.
Watch the trailer for Colin in Black & White here: