Los Angeles rapper the Koreatown Oddity has made his name in the underground LA beat scene as a producer, rapper and performer, but little known to casual fans is his background as a humorist and stand up comic, which lent itself into screenwriting. I/ts these comedic talents that led the werewolf mask-wearing artist— whose real name is Dominique Purdy— and director Paul Sapiano to write what would become the most underrated satirical comedy to come out within the last few years.
Driving While Black pulls from the very real experiences of racial profiling towards African American citizens and subsequent police brutality that have had very real, lasting traumatic effects on the African American community as a whole. Purdy and Sapiano, however veer far into dark comedic territory and into Purdy’s own experiences as a black man having to deal with racial profiling in LA. Here Purdy plays Dmitri, an unassuming young man working as a pizza delivery guy who encounters the police on numerous occasions, disrupting his life and job security as well as his day to day life.
I watched this film at a Beat Cinema viewing party almost a year ago, intrigued by the concept of a movie made by Ktown Odd. I walked away in awe— this movie is relevant, hilarious, well-acted and totally engaging. I was disappointed only by the fact that this independent gem wasn’t going to be appreciated by the larger audience it deserves. Purdy’s flexing his finest comedic acting muscles here, and his and Sapiano’s script delves so deeply into the issues at hand with deftness and panache. Other side characters of color in the film are targets of police stops as well, and the way each interrogation scene plays out presents a connecting narrative between the experiences of different people of color within public spaces.
Despite the dark subject matter that drives the film, Driving While Black never feels hopeless or preachy— it simply presents an honesty about the black experience that is unfortunately still relatable among African Americans around the country. In turn, Purdy’s Dmitri manages to remain positive and headstrong throughout it all, making him a hero to root for in the most unlikely, WTF scenarios. Underlined by a beat-laden score that feels essential to the fabric of Los Angeles, this is a film you’ll remember for years to come.
Driving While Black is available to rent through iTunes, Vimeo, Amazon, Fandango Now and Youtube.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.