Netflix Picks up Travon Free’s Oscar-Nominated Short ‘Two Distant Strangers’

The film directed by Free and Martin Desmond Roe uses a “Groundhog Day”-style premise to tell a powerful story about police violence against Black men

Last Updated: March 25, 2021 @ 9:05 AM

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Netflix has acquired the worldwide rights to the Oscar-nominated live-action short “Two Distant Strangers,” which will premiere on the streaming service on April 9, six days before Oscar voting begins.

The powerful 30-minute film was written by former “Daily Show” and “Full Frontal” writer and performer Travon Free, and directed by Free and Martin Desmond Roe, who wrote and co-produced the 2012 Oscar-nominated short “Buzkashi Boys.” “Two Distant Strangers” takes a “Groundhog Day”-style conceit and applies it to a timely story in which a Black cartoonist (Joey Bada$$) finds himself reliving the same day over and over, with the day always ending when he is killed by a white police officer.

“Free’s film has a cumulative power that slowly replaces the inherent comedy with a growing horror,” wrote TheWrap in a survey of the Oscar shortlist for live-action shorts. “…The film takes a jokey sci-fi premise and turns it into a wrenching and potent story drawn from today’s headlines.”

The film’s producers include three-time Oscar nominee Lawrence Bender (“Pulp Fiction,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Inglourious Basterds”) and Sean “Diddy” Combs, with executive producers including Kevin Durant.

In a statement, Free and Roe said, “When we set out to create this short in the middle of the simultaneous pandemic and social justice crises, we didn’t know what to expect … All of us have been so filled with gratitude to see so many people responding to this story of resilience and perseverance. ‘Two Distant Strangers’ tackles a tough subject for everyone, but in an effort to forge a new direction in the conversation. And now having Netflix come on board to bring that message to millions is an incredible opportunity.”

Netflix already has nominees in the Best Animated Short and Best Documentary Short categories, with “If Anything Happens I Love You” a frontrunner in the former category and “A Love Song for Latasha” a strong contender in the latter. “Two Distant Strangers” is considered one of the favorites in the live-action category.

The streaming giant won its first-ever Oscar for the 2016 doc short “The White Helmets,” and also won in that category two years later with “Period. End of Sentence.”

The trailer to “Two Distant Strangers” is available here.