Rafael Casal (Blindspotting, actor)
Few acting revelations at this year’s Sundance Film Festival were as indelibly bonkers as Rafael Casal’s in Blindspotting. Casal struck confounding and multi-layered notes as a white man whose identification with the struggles of people of color, yet inability to recognize the privilege his whiteness bestows upon him, leads him over a messy clutch of boundaries—racial, cultural, polite. Acting opposite his friend and long-time artistic partner Daveed Diggs, Casal transformed into the character Miles by channeling his experience of having grown up in the multicultural Bay Area, as well as actively questioning divisive race biases throughout his career. The result is a puzzlingly lovable, recurrently obnoxious, ethnically ambiguous, frustratingly oblivious, dangerously violent, and incessantly loyal man who wears a grill on his teeth and a morbidly comedic t-shirt that encourages killing hipsters to prevent gentrification. Note that Casal has had a long history of accomplished works in music, acting, writing, and activism prior to this, but it might be his boundary-pushing turn in Carlos López Estrada’s Blindspotting, which he also co-wrote with Diggs, that fully awakens the world into appreciating his wild talent. –C.A.
The Sundance Film Festival ran from January 18–28, 2018. See our list of 2017 breakthroughs here; for more from this year, check out our 2018 Sundance Survey here. Did you attend Sundance 2018? Let us know who your breakthrough’s are in the comments below.