With an impressive leading haul this year of 35 Oscar nominations (a streamer record), Netflix apparently wanted more and just pushed that number to 36, saying Thursday that it has acquired the Live Action Short nominee Two Distant Strangers.
The film, written by Emmy winner Travon Free and directed by Free and Martin Desmond Roe, revolves around the repeated attempts by cartoonist Carter James (played by rapper Joey Bada$$) to get home to his dog as he is thwarted by a recurring deadly encounter that forces him — in a twist on movies from Groundhog Day to Palm Springs — to relive the same awful day over and over again (check out the trailer above).
Having seen the film earlier this year it could not be more timely, especially in the light of events surrounding the death of George Floyd and numerous others in the Black community. With the deal, Two Distant Strangers begins streaming April 9 on Netflix.
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The only thing surprising about Netflix’s pickup is that no one had gotten to it earlier as it counts among its producers multiple Oscar nominee Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction), Jesse Williams and Sean “Diddy” Combs, and has had awards-season screenings hosted by the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Landing an Oscar-nominated short is not unprecedented for Netflix; it also acquired eventual Documentary Short winner Period.End Of Sentence before its victory in 2019.
“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. But in just five days, we pulled off the nearly impossible to make this incredible film. And all of us have been so filled with gratitude to see so many people responding to this story of resilience and perseverance,” said Free and Roe in a joint statement. “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.”
Free is an Emmy-winning writer formerly with The Daily Show, and his connections with the late-night talk show world led to a recent appearance with Jimmy Kimmel who raved about the film, and where Free mentioned they had still not found any buyers for it despite the attention it had gotten. His sales pitch worked and Netflix now has another strong contender in its efforts to lead all studios in wins come Oscar night April 25 with an important film that will be indeed talked about.
For Free, who wrote on both Jon Stewart’s (who has also participated in Q&As for the film) and Trevor Noah’s incarnations of Daily Show as well as for Samantha Bee, the Groundhog Day idea came about after Floyd’s death and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement because every one of these horrific killings just seems like Groundhog Day in the Black community. It is powerful stuff and exceptionally well made as I discovered when Bender first made me aware of it a few weeks ago.
Chris Uettwiller also produced, and executive producers include Michael A. Conley II, Kevin Durant, Tina Exarhos, Samir Hernandez, Terrence Jenkins, Rich Kleiman, Van Lathan, Nicholas Maye, Mickey Meyer, Michael Novogratz, The Pritzker Pucker Family and Jordan Schultz.
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