Two Distant Strangers: a complex look at real issues



Natalie Swyers, Staff Writer

Carter James is a young black man living in New York and is just trying to get home to his dog. Police officer Merk has prevented him from doing so a hundred times over.

The Oscar-winning 2021 short film Two Distant Strangers, which was the first short film made by a black filmmaker to win an Oscar, was incredibly powerful and heartbreaking, and way more impactful than I expected. The uniqueness of perspective on recurring issues that accurately portrays the brutality of the police against minorities makes this 32-minute film a must-watch.

Carter wakes up next to a woman named Perri, after meeting her the night before, and shares a nice morning with her before going on his way. Outside the building, he encounters a white officer who accuses him of smoking marijuana disguised as a cigarette. When Carter refuses to let the officer search his bag, he is suffocated to death, a gruesome reenactment of the brutal death of George Floyd.

Carter continues to wake up on that same morning, and quickly realizes he is stuck in a time loop. This endless cycle of death- representative of what real black people face in American society- continues day after day, and Carter can’t seem to escape, no matter what he does. Even when he stays in Perri’s apartment for breakfast, cops break in and kill him unprovoked- another reference to a real death, this scene resembles Breonna Taylor’s murder.

Throughout this endless loop of deaths, Carter feels more and more helpless. It is quite frustrating to watch, despite previously knowing what the movie would be about. Seeing somebody unable to break free from a cycle of pain makes the real events it refers to even more painful, and the analogy does a great job of helping people to realize the actual weight of the situation and how the many deaths of not only black people, but all people of color, can impact American communities.

The symbolism of racial injustice throughout the film is striking. The time-loop concept alone is heartbreaking, representative of how impossible it seems to end the cycle of violence for those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. The symbolism and connections to current events cause the film to be more relatable and recognizable to watchers, and therefore more heart-wrenching. The contrast of the beauty of the film itself and the morbid events it is spreading awareness about creates a melancholy masterpiece.