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First of all, who knew that Netflix had a genre called "Fight the System"? The newest Spike Lee offering See You Yesterday is nestled right in this category. I just needed to record that in our collective memory for future consumption.
Now let's get into this film.
Temporal relocation. Police brutality. Black excellence. This film is better than Avengers: End Game. (I don't care Fight me.) See You Yesterday is an innovative, original amalgamation of STEM and #BlackLivesMatter. When the film starts, you see two Black teenagers (CJ and Sebastian) hacking into an alley surveillance camera to record their experiment for a science fair. This experiment if successful will create a socioeconomic gateway out of the struggle of Black life. That alone speaks to the film's layers. Shortly after their first successful trial, police attempt a 'stop and frisk', but they're thwarted by CJ's resilience and their friend's camera phone. Within the next few scenes, we are yanked through their first successful trip through time, the police shooting of CJ's older brother Calvin, and Calvin's funeral. It is a direct parallel to the way our timelines look. There are so many hashtags and unarmed victims that it feels like a ride we can't get off.
Calvin's death dramatically shifts CJ's focus. She and Sebastian begin making plans to go back in time and save him. It's a heartbreakingly relatable sentiment. How many of us have wondered what we could have done differently to avoid the racist acts of others? When can we get a break from the incessant injustice? What did we do to deserve this?
This film reminds us that none of us deserve this.
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During pointless work icebreakers when we get asked what decade we'd go back to, for Black people the question it's usually not a fun way to get to know our coworkers. There is not a single time when Black people were seen as human. Think back to the three/fifths clause when white people only considered us partially human. Then there's the point in history where our children were spit on and hosed and assaulted just for wanting to go to school or eat inside a restaurant. This year alone, an unarmed grandmother was killed by police in Texas, Oklahoma police shot an unarmed a 14-year-old Black boy when he was playing in his own backyard, and white women consider themselves good Samaritans when they kill innocent Black victims. Sadly, that's not even close to the end of the list.
There is no decade in this country that was kind to us.
What struck me most about this film was the relentless audacity of our people. Unlike so many time travel films before it, See You Yesterday is the manifestation of our wildest dreams. It is a fantasy that repeatedly forces us to keep the real world in the back of our minds. The characters assert through a beautifully written script that anti-Blackness is not our fault. CJ in particular offers a lens of incomprehensible hope. We balance our fears and dreams throughout each act of the movie the way we do in real life whenever this country passes new voting rights legislation or elects a Black person to office or graduates a historic amount of Black women from a military institution.
Aside from the themes that speak to your soul, the soundtrack is everything. For the sci-fi fans, the eloquent nods to time travel films of the past are icing on the cake. Writer Fredrica Bailey wanted a strong female lead which allowed us to witness glorious displays of Black girl magic and Black boy joy. Bailey's co-writer Stefon Bristol worked with her to create a protagonist who encompassed what it really means to grow up in a paradoxical world of endless possibilities and life threatening exclusion for Black youth.
See You Yesterday is definitely in my top 20. As I write this, I am watching it for the third time since its release. The spirit of this script is captivating and you're guaranteed to identify with at least one, if not all the characters. With any luck, there is a pair of young Black engineers re-calibrating history in real life to give our people a better chance at happiness in some alternate reality. Until then...see you yesterday.