The only thing I knew about this short film going in was that Joey Bada$$ was in it and it won an Oscar. It lures you in with truly stunning cinematography, creamy soft focus and false pretences of a classic rom com set up, before quickly descending into an allegory for the Black male experience in America – a racist deja vu where Joey Bada$$ is killed everyday in a time loop by a white cop caricature no matter what he does. His ultimate goal: to make it home to his dog. 💔
Every second of this film is smart. It uses its time and platform clearly and succinctly to decry police brutality with strong writing, pacing, and stand out performances from the two strangers in question; particularly Andrew Howard as the insidious cop Officer Merk. The recurring use of Bruce Hornsby and The Range’s ‘The Way It Is’ is also a highlight that manages not to dip into cliche territory. It deserves all the praise it got.
…Until this last week when it was accused of plagiarism by Cynthia Kao, a film director who made a 4 minute short in 2016 with an almost identical premise. Kao also claims to have been approached by the same film company behind Two Distant Strangers last year. Yikes. Kao’s Groundhog Day For a Black Man (available on YouTube) adopts a more tongue-in-cheek tone, preaching to the choir and amping the pacing to fit the story in a shorter time frame with a less provoking ending. While I sincerely hope Kao receives a hefty payout from Netflix, both films target a different audience and should co-exist as powerful pop culture commentary on a very real issue.