Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe interview: ‘Two Distant Strangers’ directors
“Our movie takes a traumatic experience and tells a story of hope and resilience,” says Travon Free about his film “Two Distant Strangers” in an exclusive interview with Gold Derby (watch the video above). He explains, “Movies and TV shows that are about trauma are not the same as something that’s centered in trauma and our movie is not centered in trauma.” Free and his co-director Martin Desmond Roe are nominated at the Oscars in the Best Live Action Short category for their half-hour film that uses a time loop to dramatize Black Lives Matter. Netflix acquired the short after its nomination and it will be available to stream beginning April 9.
Free explains, “This is a message that’s so important to me and near and dear to my heart because as a Black man from Compton, I’ve experienced and seen a tremendous amount of death and gun violence. I’ve had a police officer’s gun in my face. I’ve stared down the barrel of a police gun and that’s not something that everyone does or should have to experience, but all that culminates in this film.” He says about the protagonist played by Joey Bada$$, “He represents all the people who basically prove that no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter how pure of heart, no matter how innocent, no matter how far removed from any criminal element you are, this can find you.”
Roe joined the project after Free had written the screenplay and says, “This film sprang directly from his soul.” He continues, “My job here was to make sure that his vision and his soul was presented as well as possible.” Roe previously wrote and co-produced “Buzkashi Boys,” a past Best Live Action Short nominee. He laughs while reflecting on that experience, “If you want the most exciting and confusing thing in the world, get nominated for an Oscar for a short film — because when you introduce yourself to people, they’re like, ‘Wait, what; they make Oscars for that’?”
“Two Distant Strangers” marks the directorial debut of Free, who has Emmy Awards for writing “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” Roe says about his creative partner, “There’s a lot of technical stuff that goes with directing that you pick up over time, but vision — that’s the fundamental requirement (‘this is what I want to communicate cinematically to an audience’) — Travon came fully loaded with.”