When a black man lives the same day over and over again, he tries changing his behavior to survive a police interaction.
The idea in GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN, realized with a pinch of comedy, is brilliant. The director used the plot device behind Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) and many other works of that genre to create an interesting short film, entertaining but at the same time a little bit of too true. A black man wakes up and, while going to work, gets shot by a policeman while trying to get his ID for him. After his death, he wakes up again in this bed and re-lives that day many times, each of them trying to figure out how to escape his destiny: he prepares his ID before being stopped, he tries to dress up as different workers, but the results never changes. He even kills himself when he tries to dress up as a cop himself! All the fast scenes make GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN never boring, also funny in some situations (like the irony when he shoots himself as a cop, or the scene where he covers his face with cream and fakes he’s making a face mask), but at the same time it triggers thoughts and observations about the world we live in. Yes, the film is ironic, but what happens is not that far from reality: a man doing nothing wrong, stopped and killed just because he’s black. And no matter how hard he tries, how different combinations he experiments, there’s no way the policeman changes his mind. This film is a super-short with good quality, interesting dynamics, brilliant plot and interesting themes.
GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN recently reached the news, involved in a controversy with TWO DISTANT STRANGERS (2020, Martin Desmond Roe, Travon Free), short film that won the Oscar at the 93rd edition this year, 2021. While the film by Kao is from 2016 and was recently brought back to attention after the murder of George Floyd, the Netflix production is more recent and seems to have tapped from the first short to construct the award-winning work. Some argue that the ‘groundhog day plot’ isn’t something that you can copy, as it may be considered a subgenre, but what they can’t see is that there’s not just the ‘groundhog day’ going on in both the short films: it is pretty much the same story, a black man getting killed over and over and no matter how hard he tries, he fails to escape his fate. Obviously, having more budget and being longer, TWO DISTANT STRANGERS adds more to the plot, has character developement, more different situations, but what lies underneath – the plot – looks the same. The tone is also different, not comedic but highly dramatic, but the problem remains there: is TWO DISTANT STRANGERS a rip off of GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN? The issue was addressed by Kao on TikTok (you can find the video on that link), also referring to NowThis sharing her film during the protests for George Floyd and then ending up collaborating with Netflix for the film by Roe and Free; NowThis responded that he film was independently conceived and they got involved just at the end of production (you can find the answer from NowThis at the same page).
Title: GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN
Director: Cynthia Kao
Running time: 4