‘Two Distant Strangers’: The dog tale you didn’t know you needed to see
Joey Bada$$’s Netflix short film earned its right to 2021 Oscar nominee
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Black Girl In a Doggone World on June 27, 2022.
Writer’s update on April 26, 2021: My most sincere congratulations to writers Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe for winning an Oscar for Live Action Short Film. I couldn’t care less about Oscar nominations or movies (usually), but he deserves all the accolades. At this point, I think I’ve watched this Netflix Short at least 20 times. It is the dopest rom-com (if it was made for that) but for a higher purpose. It took me several times to even notice the African map.
Somebody had a meeting somewhere and decided Joey Bada$$ should be everybody’s boyfriend who Noah Centineo was too busy to woo. (If you’re an ’80s baby, a better comparison would be Brandon Q. Adams or the late Merlin Santana.) Outside of Tupac Shakur, Joey Bada$$ (aka Joey Badass) may be the first Billboard hip-hop artist who seamlessly transitions from rapping to love interest — and he’s doing it well.
On everything from “Boomerang” to “Grown-ish” to “Two Distant Strangers,” he’s not just “the other man” or “the cute rapper with groupies” or “the boyfriend.” He’s managed to make his roles memorable. And by far, his most significant role to date (in my opinion) is the Oscar-nominated Netflix short previously mentioned: “Two Distant Strangers.”
From a casual glance at the short, you’d think Travon Free’s script was a cute story about a man and a woman (Carter and Perri) waking up to each other after a one-night stand, with the possibility of a relationship. It’s warm-hearted, funny and even includes an adorable dog who gets the Oprah treatment with dog treats. But it doesn’t take long before it goes down a really real path of what it’s like to be a black man in America, one who simply wants to live his life and survive long enough to get home to feed and walk his dog.
If you’re a fan of “The Twilight Zone,” this is the kind of short you’ll respect. If you’re a black (wo)man in America, this is the kind of story you can relate to. And if you’re a dog lover, you damn sure are going to be pacing the room at the amount of obstacles Carter faces in order to get from Point A to Point B. When Carter says “au revoir,” he means it in the most literal sense.
While I will not spoil the 30-minute short for viewers who haven’t seen it, I can’t help but think of the Reverend Raphael Warnock and the way the now-Atlanta senator used dogs within his political campaigns. It’s clever. The same kind of people who are “surprised” by the video footage of George Floyd before he was killed are more often than not the same folks who will prioritize a dog over a human being. If you think the graphic designer being a dog owner was just a fun fact, don’t. It’s subtle, but it’s done with purpose to make those who would usually dismiss his character connect to him more.