The 32-minute science-fiction drama, “Two Distant Strangers” written by Travon Free and directed by Free and Martin Desmond Roe won Best Live Action Short Film at the 93rd Academy Awards this month.
The film shines a light on the ongoing issue of African Americans dying at the hands of law enforcement. This is shown through the eyes of the main character Carter, played by notable Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$. His interactions with the same police officer, Officer Merk, played by Andrew Howard, become worse as he continues to find himself trapped in a never-ending cycle which concludes in his own death.
With a 100% rating by Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is a must-watch, not only for the African American community but for everyone as it highlights the many issues within racial profiling, systematic racism and the ongoing battle between Black Americans and police officers.
The acting is executed perfectly and allows the audience to experience this powerful film as though they are the victim of these horrible acts. This film is one of the many brilliant works orchestrated by the cinematographer Jessica Young, who is also known for her work on the movie “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week,” which came out in 2016.
The setting of “Two Distant Strangers” mainly takes place in the apartment building of Carter’s date in New York City. The amazing cinematography allows the viewers to see through the eyes of the main character Carter and does a great job of pulling you into the film. As viewers, we can see the symbolism through the continuous killings of Carter as it pertains to the unjustifiable killings of unarmed African American men and women.
The constant time loop that Carter is trapped in symbolizes that once over, the trauma surrounding situations like this end for the police officers, but unfortunately, it is not the same for the victim. Many police officers get to move on with their life; but when you fall victim to these senseless killings or overt acts of racism as an African American, you can never get away from the incidents as they will haunt you forever, as they did Carter.
We see that throughout the short film, no matter what Carter tried to change his fate ended the same way: with him being killed by the officer.
In Free’s Academy Award acceptance speech for his film, he exclaimed, “Today, the police will kill three people, and tomorrow, the police will kill three people — and the day after that, police will kill three people because on average, the police in America every day kill three people, which amounts to about 1,000 people per year.”
“Two Distant Strangers” highlights the many different instances that result in the same outcome, suggesting that no matter the route you choose in life or what lifestyle you subscribe to as an African American, when it comes to racism, you can not win.
We see this as Carter asked his previous date, Perri, for advice on how he should go about the matter, as despite trying to change his appearance, running away and even having a conversation with the officer, Carter was still profiled and then killed in all instances.
The short film exemplifies the tension that exists between law enforcement and African Americans, as the main character constantly wakes up out of his sleep gasping for air. Carter eventually comes to the realization that this is a cycle, and he will continue to find this unfortunate reality.
The ending of the film leaves the audience with the tragic realization that no matter what Carter does, he will still die. During the ending, it appears as if everything was going well while the officer drove Carter home, due to the pair having an engaging conversation during the ride. When Carter gets out of the cop car in hopes of finally reuniting with his dog, he takes a few steps only to see Officer Merk with his gun pointing toward him letting out several bullets into Carter.
Ultimately, one of the key messages that this short film reflects is that racism in America is simply inescapable.