Inspired by George Floyd’s murder, the short film ‘Two Distant Strangers’ (it’s on Netflix) looks at the life of a young African-American man stuck in a time-loop – he constantly relives the day a cop kills him.
Travon Free has written and co-direct the 32-minute long story with Martin Desmond Roe. It stars Joe Bada$$ as Carter, a young designer who just wants to get home to his dog after a date-night out, but is shot by a cop called Merk on his way. After he dies, he wakes up the same morning again, and again, and again. Each time he attempts to outrun or outsmart Merk… but each one ends in his death, even if in a different manner.
Actor Andrew Howard was pretty much the perfect pick for ‘bad cop’ Merk, he just gives off such a killer vibe in the uniform. If somebody needed to cast an intimidating looking Russian assassin, Howard would be an easy pick for the part. And if his IMDB pictures are anything to go by, he has probably already played something similar.
The film is crisp, pacy and dives into the conflict without much ado. One scene is eerily similar to the manner in which Floyd died, complete with the expression “I can’t breathe”, so for a second it feels like the makers are trying to make a mockery of the tragedy. Because imitation of real life events can be interpreted in multiple ways. For some, the scene may be in bad taste, for others it is a graphic repetition necessary to remind viewers of the kind of asphyxiating discrimination African-Americans face on a daily basis. Carter becomes a symbol for each young person finding themselves at the wrong side of the gun for no apparent fault of theirs. During one of Carter’s many deaths, his pool of blood takes the shape of Africa. Many viewers might miss the symbolism, so here’s a still from the short.
For the ending, the directors go in for an unconventional open-ended climax, without resolving the time-loop conundrum, leaving the viewers with a cliffhanger open to interpretation. And while one can imagine a thousand possible endings, there are largely only two ways to look at the message of the film – one is the easier pessimistic take that the white cop is always going to be an animal baying for the blood of an innocent black person, that no matter what you do, nothing’s going to change. The other more metaphorical & positive way to look at it is from the lens of hope – even when one feels trapped in a system of injustice, waking up every day to the same terrible sequence of events, you have to get out of that bed and fight back, until some day… things change.
There have been allegations that the movie has been plagiarized from ‘Groundhog Day For A Black Man’, a four minute short written & directed by Cynthia Kao. After watching and forming my opinions about ‘Two Distant Strangers’, I went on YouTube and saw Kao’s film, and it’s easy to see that Travon Free has definitely taken off the idea for his production from there. In just 4 minutes, Kao’s story packs more punch, is wittier, funnier and has a more positive open-ended climax.
Watch both films.
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Ep 66: 5 Things That Keep ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ Alive