You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

10 Directors to Watch: Carlos López Estrada Opens Eyes With Sundance-Bound ‘Blindspotting’

Mexican director partners with 'Hamilton' star and spoken-word whiz to deliver powerful statement on the dynamic between Oakland cops and their community.

Born in Mexico City to a family committed to the arts (his grandmother was a stage actress married to a reporter on the culture beat, while his parents both worked for a local TV station), López Estrada moved to the States at age 12, and later enrolled in film school at Chapman U. in Orange County.

“That is how I met Daveed,” says the director, referring to Daveed Diggs, the co-writer and star of his debut feature, the Sundance-bound, music-backed indie drama “Blindspotting.” “Daveed is part of a rap group called Clipping, and I made a video for them five years ago in L.A., back when they had no money,” López Estrada says. “One of his bandmates had scored a short film for me at Chapman, and he put us in touch. That was the start of a really fruitful collaborative friendship.”

Over the next half-decade, the director and Diggs became part of a small circle of L.A.-based artists who helped out on one another’s projects. López Estrada helmed more than half a dozen videos for Clipping, and even won a 2012 Latin Grammy on another, Jesse & Joy’s “Me Voy.” All that time, Diggs had been working on the screenplay for “Blindspotting” — part homage to his hometown of Oakland, Calif., part indictment of police brutality — with longtime friend (and spoken-word wizard) Rafael Casal when he was cast in a little musical called “Hamilton.”

While Diggs was busy on Broadway, López Estrada got his shot on the Stage 13-backed “High & Mighty” (also set for Sundance). Consisting of eight 15-minute episodes shot over four weeks, the short-form digital series may as well have been a feature-length script.

“It was honestly the best narrative training we could ever ask for,” says López Estrada, who applied what he’d learned to directing “Blindspotting” the following year, when Diggs (now a Tony winner) found time in his schedule for the ambitious project.

“We had so many opportunities to mess up,” López Estrada says. “There’s music, there are big tonal shifts, there are really heavy issues. I think we found the right balance that the movie required.”

Influences: Gabriel García Márquez, Spike Lee
Agents: United Talent Agency
Lawyer: Ziffren Brittenham

More Film


    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    ‘Glass’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Glass.” Ads placed for the superhero thriller had an estimated media value of $9.89 million through Sunday for 1,183 national [...]

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. Awkwafina is in final negotiations for a significant part in [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. Production is currently [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass' to Break January's Slow Box Office Streak

    No plot twist here: M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Glass” will dominate the domestic box office. As this weekend’s lone wide release, “Glass” looks to be the de facto choice for moviegoers during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Now the only question is: how big of an opening can “Glass” pull off? Mediocre reviews don’t [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content