Summary List Placement
A director suggested an Oscar-winning short film about police brutality copied the idea from her 2016 short film.
In a TikTok posted by Director Cynthia Kao, the director talked about her four-minute short film titled “Groundhog Day for a Black Man,” released in December 2016, in which a Black man relives the same day and “tries to survive a police interaction,” Kao said. The short film has just over 3.6 million views as of May 4.
The 2020 short film “Two Distant Strangers,” written by Travon Free and directed by Free and Martin Desmond Roe, is about a Black man who becomes “stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive a deadly run-in with a cop,” according to the film’s description on Netflix.
The short film won Best Short Film at the 2021 Academy Awards last month.
Following the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020, Kao said in the video that an unnamed producer from video news outlet NowThis reached out to her asking her for permission to report excerpts of the video in a report.
“We had recently seen your short film titled Groundhog Day for a Black Man and found it very powerful,” the email read, as seen in Kao’s TikTok. “We would like to amplify it and share the message with our audience.”
“Could we use the video in a video report? We would of course credit you on screen and give full credit to the production team listed in the YouTube description in the credits at the end of the video,” the email continued. “We are happy to link any social media pages as well.”
“This hit me when I saw in the opening credits, ‘in association with NowThis,'” she said, putting a screenshot of the chyron in her TikTok.
“I don’t know what happened and I’m not making any assumptions,” Kao continued in her video.
Thank you for the messages and tags. 🙏
Kao’s TikTok garnered 2.8 million views, prompting her supporters to demand Kao be credited if her work inspired “Two Distant Strangers” and calls for further explanation from NowThis for its role in co-producing the Oscar-winning short.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, NowThis said: “Two Distant Strangers was independently conceived and in final production for months before NowThis became involved in the film so any connection is out of the question.”
“NowThis is committed to highlighting injustices including racism and police brutality,” the statement continued. “It’s unfortunate that the repeated nature of these experiences are a reality for Black Americans.”
Actor Burl Moseley from “Groundhog Day for a Black Man” told The Beast that he thinks NowThis should give Kao an explanation.
“If it is a coincidence, it is spectacular,” he said. “I don’t want to come to any assumptions or anything like that. But they sent our directors an email, asking if they could share the short, which they did. Then they made their own short that was incredibly similar. It leaves me with some questions.”
Representatives for NowThis, Netflix, Free, and Roe did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.