Yesterday Kodak Black released a politically-charged new video for “Tunnel Vision,” a graphic video that blazes through the historical racial tension and hateful white supremacy that has plagued America for centuries. In the clip, a white man who is literally wearing the Confederate flag on his jacket heads out into a hunting ground, where he takes aim at a black man.
Instead of shooting and killing the black man, the white man’s gun jams, and the black man attacks him, assuming an easy dominance. But just when the black man is about to use a nearby American flag to choke the white man to death — who, remember, would’ve happily shot and killed him– a young girl appears and asks the pair to stop. Right at that moment, the video ends.
We spoke with director Michael Garcia about the impetus behind the visual, and how it works with the track itself, which lyrically focuses on Black’s recent struggles with the law, and his need to decide what kind of life he wants for himself. Black recently served jail time for two drug charges, and a sexual battery charge — with graphic, damning details in the released warrant — is still outstanding.
He may end up facing more jail time for this case when it reaches court, but for now, he’s out on bail and releasing fiercely political statements like the “Tunnel Vision” video. The video concept was Garcia’s idea and it was his first time working with Kodak, but clearly, their creative partnership is a powerful one. Read our conversation with Garcia about how he came up with his vision for the video, breaking down the cycle of hate, and the inclusion of those burning crosses.
How did you guys come up with the conceit for the video and the plotline for it? Was it mostly your idea or did Kodak come to you with a concept?
When I first heard the record I thought to myself Kodak was perfect for this message. Being from South Florida myself, I really align with his message of struggle the inner city youth feels down here. It literally hit me the second I heard the line “They wanna see you in a penitentiary.” I knew this was the right timing for a statement like this to be made and I also wanted to give Kodak a different look than he’s had in prior videos. I knew it was controversial and edgy — but so is Kodak. That’s what was so perfect to me about it all. When I found out he loved the concept it showed me how brave he was an artist. I am real grateful to him for allowing me to become aligned with his movement and offer the full support of his resources to make it happen.
People don’t really expect a political statement like this from Kodak Black, why do you think he wanted to make a statement like this now?
It was a long shot in my head even when I pitched it. But I felt Kodak might want to take a chance on something like this. See the way I see it is that some people think new rappers aren’t saying anything. I view it different: I think they are saying a lot. I feel like Kodak stands for something. I wanted to give him a chance to express himself and show his audience a different side of him they weren’t used to seeing.
When you first heard the song did you think it would fit with a political video like this? They seem to be coming from different places, but then dovetail together really well.
Absolutely! It’s literally the only image I had in my head the whole time. Kodak is laser focused and no matter what happens he always seems to prevail and keep a tunnel vision. The system can try all it wants but he seems to always beat the odds.
How long have you been working with Kodak and how did you guys first connect?
This was actually our first time working. My good friend and fellow director Gil Green put us together. He felt as artists we would be good match on this project.
Where did you shoot the video and who are the actors involved in the showdown?
We shot this video on location in Homestead, Florida. The actors Quincy Perkins (white man), and Bertand Boyd II (black man) were both very conflicted on even doing this video. Both of them took huge risks with their own emotions to make this happen. They are both peace-loving, forward thinking individuals who took a lot of convincing to play these roles. I had to have multiple conversations with them privately on set to remind them that we were promoting peace and unity with this video. It was tense at times.
The first half is so chilling, incorporating the Confederate Flag and having the white man come out directly like he was “hunting” and then switch that up with him aiming at the black man. Then, to have his gun be rendered useless changes the whole playing field. How do you think that works as a metaphor for the historical white violence against black people, especially as our country is attempting to grapple with it right now within the Black Lives Matter, Trump’s ascendence etc.?
I’m glad you asked that. The video is littered with symbolism. I wanted to flip racism on it ass for this video. See the hat has a double meaning: Make America HATE Again. It’s actually not even a stab on Trump. People see that hat and feel the person wearing it hates them. This then makes us hate them and the vicious cycles continues. The positive to negative flashes are there to show how quick an image on television can make us turn from love to hate. Not one frame of this video is by accident. A lot of men of color in this country feel hunted — myself included being a Latin man. But when the gun is rendered useless they are just two men now unified in their distrust for each other. The tables turn. This happens because white men in America also feel hunted. They feel outnumbered. Instead of unifying and realizing they can love each other the choose to fight to death.
The inclusion of the burning crosses is a really intense signifier, even if he’s using it in a subversive way. Did you guys debate using that symbol at all?
Kodak was so brave about that set up. I actually expected him to ask me to remove the crosses. Instead he wanted more! He’s a soldier.
Was it difficult to set them up?
Hell yes! My art director Nelson Mantecon, and producer Shiri Fauer were going nuts trying to figure out how to even pull it off for a week. Then we had the fear of them collapsing and injuring someone. It’s not like any of us had burned a cross before or taken interest on how it’s done. Let’s just say our google histories were quite suspect that week. It was the by far one of the most tense moments I have ever had on a film set.
The image of the black man choking the white one with the flag itself was another super packed image as far as symbolism. Can you talk about your reasoning behind that moment?
Yes. Thank you for asking. One thing a lot people do not notice is that the flag is upside down the whole video. This is symbol of distress. I feel the nation is in distress. The choking of the man is symbolic of how far we are willing to go for our beliefs. Most people on whatever side they are on of the debate don’t realize the implications. The pressures of America and it’s current racial tension is suffocating us. It’s literally killing us all slowly.
In your mind, after the girl yells “stop” what choice does the black man make? Does he take the other man’s life or let him go? I was also struck that she was white…
I would hope people realize the message is that love is bred in us. Hate is taught. We have to think about what we are teaching our children. In my mind he would let him go. I’m not saying they are gonna immediately hug and have a play date but at least open dialogue and start a better tomorrow for our future generations.
For more information about Michael Garcia’s work, or to get in touch, check out his Instagram, Twitter and Vimeo accounts. His new documentary Coming Home Vietnam will premiere March 23rd on RevoltTV.