film by Tremain Prioleau April 16, 2021
In review, Two Distant Strangers is an exceptional film. Still, that doesn’t mean I could enjoy watching it.
Directed by Travon Free, Two Distant Strangers is an Oscar-nominated short film released on Netflix about a young Black cartoonist who finds himself caught in a never-ending time loop with the police officer that murders him.
This film released recently in the shadow of the Daunte Wright shooting that is gripping the nation currently. And the parallels of the film to the nature of reality for Black people living in America make it all the more relevant.
I will say plainly that I did not enjoy this film at all. I didn’t like watching it.
In fact, I procrastinated as much as possible on watching it for myself because of the news cycle and the plethora of films just like this one we’ve gotten in the past. I had to basically build the courage up to mentally put myself through 32 minutes of this.
That’s not to say that the film is bad objectively from a filmmaking or writing perspective. That’s not the case at all, as it is an exceptional film. The cinematography is strong. The use of color is very distinct in the film to create that separation of two worlds essentially between our lead character and the officer.
And the writing is strong albeit not really original. If you’ve seen “Groundhog Day,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” or the best comparison to this film, “See You Yesterday,” then you know exactly how this film plays out.
I get the artistic message that it is going for.
Playing off of the time-loop theme, the film is trying to suggest that Black people are essentially caught in a time loop due to us having to experience these traumas over and over again just as the main character, Carter, has to relive his death each time.
There’s routinely a new name added to the list of high-profile police shootings every few months it seems. So this message rings true, but the existence of a film like this also perpetuates that assertion.
Films about police misconduct or racism are popular and frankly in demand, for example, there’s an Oscar nomination for this film. And especially over the last year, there have been countless articles, videos, and talks surrounding what films white people can use to educate themselves on racism.
We’re in an era where activism and profit are securely aligned to the point where many from these affected communities are questioning the merit of these forms of art being made and who they are really made for.
And that particular attention to your audience is what separates a lot of these films from each other. What makes a film like “Get Out” phenomenal isn’t that it’s about the racist white family. They aren’t the villains of the film.
The real villain was the concept of the sunken-place, illustrating figuratively how Black people can lose their sense of self, their joy, their own being from the pressures of racism in society and how important it is to fight back against that pit to remain true to who we are. And for most people, that concept was missed.
Two Distant Strangers has been lucky in this critical regard because it coincided with the release of Amazon’s television series “THEM” which has caught the brunt of this recent outrage cycle for trying to illustrate the horrors of racism in the most brutal and dehumanizing ways that it could.
But what becomes clear is clear that these films and TV shows are not made for Black people. We know the issues at hand and many of us experience them first hand on a daily basis. This is why I dreaded watching this film because I knew what I was walking into.
So there is a place for films like “Two Distant Strangers” because someone somewhere will watch it and open their eyes to the realities of America. It shouldn’t be denied the space that it has.
But if you already have a keen understanding of America’s racial dynamics, I would say you’re not obligated to watch anything like this. You wouldn’t be missing out on anything that you couldn’t just go outside and experience for yourself.