'Two Distant Strangers' Director Responds to Claim He Copied 2016 Film

Travon Free is setting the record straight. The director of the Oscar-winning short film Two Distant Strangers addressed recent allegations that his work copied another short film about police brutality in an op-ed for The Washington Post

On April 30, filmmaker Cynthia Kao posted a video to TikTok in which she drew connections between her four-minute short film titled Groundhog Day for a Black Man and Free’s project. Kao explained that her film, which was released in December 2016, follows a Black man who relives the same day and “tries to survive a police interaction.” 


Kao says that a producer from video news outlet NowThis reached out asking for her permission to use pieces of the video in a report after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. In an email seen in Kao’s TikTok, the producer said they found the short “very powerful” and wanted to “amplify it and share the message with our audience.”

The email noted they would give Kao credit onscreen and give full credit to the production team listed in the film’s credits. “We are happy to link any social media pages as well,” it said.

Kao says that any connections only “hit” her when she saw the Two Distant Strangers‘ credits, which include a chyron that says “in association with NowThis.” 

“I don’t know what happened and I’m not making any assumptions,” Kao said, concluding her video.

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