Netflix's Oscar-winning short film, Two Distant Strangers, has been accused of plagiarism by filmmaker Cynthia Kao in a TikTok video that has gone viral on social media.
In the video, Kao suggests Netflix and the news outlet NowThis essentially stole the idea from her short film and produced the Academy Award-winning feature.
'Two Distant Strangers' Vs 'Groundhog Day for a Black Man'
Two Distant Strangers, which is directed by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, stars rapper/actor Joey Badass as a Black man who is stuck in a time loop that always ends with him being killed by a white police officer.
Netflix picked up the short film in March 2021 and now Kao has pointed out the similarities between her movie and the Netflix film in her TikTok video.
In the clip, Kao starts off by saying that in December 2016 she released a short film called Groundhog Day for a Black Man on YouTube. As explained by Kao, in the film, a "Black man ... relives the same day over and over and tries different methods to survive a police interaction."
She presents her case that the Netflix short may have stolen the idea because of a link between her original video and NowThis, an online publication with a big social media presence.
In the wake of George Floyd's death, NowThis News reached out to Kao, expressing their intent to share the video and "amplify it." After Kao allowed the publication to use the video, the clip was shared on NowThis's social media accounts.
However, she was shocked when she learned about Two Distant Strangers upon its release on April 9 and the fact that NowThis was listed as a producer/contributor to the Netflix film. Watch the full video below:
Although Kao says she's "not making any assumption" Twitter users are convinced that Netflix and NowThis stole the concept from Kao and accused them of plagiarism.
Her art was stolen from her-- point blank. She should be given credit and compensation," wrote one user, while another commented, "They blatantly stole her idea, and THEY WON AN OSCAR FOR IT." Here are some of the other reactions:
NowThis Issues Statement
Following the backlash, NowThis News denied the accusations in a statement, adding that the Netflix feature was "independently conceived."
"'Two Distant Strangers' was independently conceived and in final production for months before NowThis became involved in the film so any connection is out of the question," the publication said in a statement to What's On Netflix. NowThis is committed to highlighting injustices including racism and police brutality. It's unfortunate that the repeated nature of these experiences are a reality for Black Americans"