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Inventing the inventive "See You Yesterday" kids: "I wanted to show a different side of the 'hood"

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In “See You Yesterday,” director and co-writer Stefon Bristol’s canny feature debut, “Back to the Future” cross-pollinates with Black Lives Matter. The film’s two teenage protagonists, CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), use time travel to stop police violence against an unarmed black youth. The film, which is based on Bristol’s short of the same name and executive produced by Spike Lee, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this month before its May 17 debut on Netflix.

The film opens on the last day of high school, where junior CJ is reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” and her science teacher (a great cameo, not to be spoiled) is reading Octavia Butler’s “Kindred.” When best friends CJ and Sebastian get back to his grandparents’ garage, they work on their makeshift time machines.

“See You Yesterday” soon presents two episodes that form the crux of the film—encounters that will be repeated in slightly different forms once the teenage characters learn how to “jump back” after inventing temporal relocation.

It is best for viewers to discover the nature of what transpires and what needs to be “undone” as things get complicated. What can be revealed is that that film shrewdly blends comedy and social drama in equal measures, while also featuring some cool (if low-budget) special effects.

Salon talked with Bristol his film during the Tribeca Film Festival.

Were you a science nerd/geek when you were a teenager? I ask because your main characters invent temporal relocation, and I was curious if your film is based on real life?

No. I wasn’t interested in science when I was a kid. I had the kids be scientists for the audience to connect with the characters. Black and brown characters are often drug dealers, rappers, athletes, or musicians. I wanted to show a different side of the ‘hood. I’m from the ‘hood and Coney Island, and I grew up with kids into technology, anime, comic books etc. They were not ball players or musicians. There are other ways to fulfill your life. I wanted something different, so, I had kids........

© Salon