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Why Colin Kaepernick’s Netflix docuseries is bigger than football

Colin Kaepernick’s long journey will be made into a Netflix documentary.

The streaming service announced Monday that a six-part series of Kaepernick’s life will be produced by director Ava DuVernay. DuVernay earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture in 2014 for her film Selma, and again in 2016 with 13th.

The project will be titled Colin in Black and White, and will reportedly portray the quarterback’s adolescent years, showing the events and experiences that led to his career in activism.

Kaepernick played six seasons in the NFL, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. His last game was on January 1, 2017 in a regular-season loss against the Seattle Seahawks.

Kaepernick’s career in activism has been his defining characteristic for the past several years. He began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, and when faced with criticism, pledged to donate $1 million to organizations working in oppressed communities.

His donations were dispersed among multiple organizations including Mothers Against Police Brutality.

Later in 2016, Kaepernick and his partner Nessa founded the “Know Your Rights Camp.” The camp held free seminars to underprivileged and disadvantaged youth in order to educate them about legal rights and self-empowerment. The camp launched a relief fund for the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.

Kaepernick’s Netflix documentary is an important and unique step for activism because it gives a place of representation for his personal life and work. Both of these sides have faced much controversy.

While the documentary will likely focus mainly on his adolescent life, the publication of his life will help bring an understanding and perspective to his work. Netflix is taking a clear risk in developing this project, but the decision shows its belief in giving a new perspective to activism.

Ava DuVernay is the perfect choice to direct the project. The California-born filmmaker received critical acclaim for her historical drama telling the story of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches, led by James Bevel and Martin Luther King Jr.

The picture received four Golden Globe nominations and two Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

DuVernay’s 2016 film, 13th, delved into the topics of mass incarceration and racial justice in the United States. Its title references the thirteenth amendment of the United States which “abolished slavery” and ended involuntary servitude.

The film garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature, and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary.

Being clearly accomplished, DuVernay’s past work and framing ability will help her create a powerful portrayal of Kaepernick’s early life. Any film project that is tackling activism must have a balance between truth, respect, and accountability.

This is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish, and is one of the reasons why many activist projects face widespread criticism.

DuVernay, however, has demonstrated that she has the ability to address sensitive topics in a gripping and respectful fashion. Her experience working with historical events will give her a powerful edge in addressing Kaepernick’s current activism, and his early life events that led up to his work.

Colin Kaepernick’s life has been a whirlwind of athletics and activism. Netflix is taking a risky, but powerful stance in adopting his story for its streaming site. The fact that such an enormous media service is adopting this story shows the necessity of perspective in activism.

Activism projects are met with much controversy when they lack perspective. Not enough people know the story of Colin Kaepernick and why he decided to follow the path that he did.

Having a live representation of his adolescent life is the perfect opportunity to shed perspective and honesty on a movement that has been grabbing media attention for nearly five years. We cannot wait to see the project unfold on Netflix in the near future.