Arts & Life, Film & Television

Alumnus Travon Free wins Academy Award for short film “Two Distant Strangers”

Long Beach State alumnus Travon Free won an Oscar for his live action short film “Two Distant Strangers” during the 93rd Academy Awards Sunday.

“Two Distant Strangers,” which was written by Free and directed by Free and Martin Desmond Rae, depicts violence against African Americans at the hands of police. The story follows a cartoonist who finds himself stuck in a time loop, forcing him to relive an encounter with the police that ends in his death.

In an episode of “Why I Made” by Netflix, Free said that the inspiration behind the film came from watching the world respond to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.

“It occurred to me on an emotional level that as a Black person, and, you go through the cycle of emotions from anger to sadness to hopelessness to hope, you find yourself going through that cycle way too often and the cyclical nature of that felt like reliving the worst version of ‘Groundhog’s Day’ you can imagine,” Free said. “It’s a movie about the resilience of what it means to be Black in America.”

Free attended CSULB in 2003 and was a former player for the university’s basketball team. Free has since written for shows including “The Daily Show,” where he won an Emmy Award in 2015 as well as “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

During his award speech at the 93rd Academy Awards, Free said, “on average, the police in America everyday kill three people, which amounts to about 1,000 people a year” and added that those people are disproportionately Black.

Free went on to quote activist, novelist and essayist James Baldwin, sharing that being indifferent to someone else’s pain is the most “despicable” thing one can be.

“So I just ask that you please not be indifferent,” Free said. “Please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.”

“Two Distant Strangers” is available to stream on Netflix.

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