Written by | Ray Cornelius
When Morehouse College alumnus Stefon Bristol was preparing to finish NYU’s Graduate Film Program during the summer of 2014, he knew he wanted to make a sci-fi adventure featuring people of color.
He had the classic 1985 film Back to the Future, on repeat and he knew he wanted to do something similar with elements of his Brooklyn and Caribbean heritage. So he pulled inspiration from a family situation and created a story about a young black man going back in time to save his grandfather from being killed by a drunk driver.
But then, two unarmed African American men—Michael Brown and Eric Garner—were killed by non-black police officers and Bristol knew he had to somehow address this growing trend in his script. It was an idea that he was very sure about despite the opposite opinions from one of his film professors.
“At NYU you’re highly encouraged to make very independent, kind of fancy films and I wasn’t into that. So I went back to my roots to sci-fi-action-adventure and I wanted to do it with black people,” said Bristol during this week’s Atlanta premiere of See You Yesterday.
“A professor of mine read the script and she wasn’t happy that I had police brutality in it and she felt like it’s either the story or you don’t have that be the story. Well, I was like, ‘I’m going to make this the story’ because I remember Amadou Diallo. I remember Sean Bell and unfortunately I knew this was going to continue to happen. I just heard the other day that a young woman, who was pregnant, was shot and killed by a cop in Texas. So my instincts was correct and I decided to keep that idea in. I wrote the feature for it first and then I hired by co-writer Fredrica Bailey to help me with the short.”
With a more socially conscience message, Bristol created See You Yesterday, a coming-of-age kind of story that would now focus on two high school friends and science geeks, C.J. and Sebastian. Their latest homemade invention—backpacks that enable time travel—would be put to the test when C.J. older brother Calvin dies after an encounter with police officers. Looking for a way to make things right again, C.J. convinces Sebastian to go back in time with her to save Calvin.
Bristol’s first version of See You Yesterday was short film that won Best HBO Short at Martha’s Vinyard African American Film Festival. This new Netflix version, which debuts this weekend, is a more multi-layered story that will also reach a broader audience.
“I feel very, very happy and relieved,” said Bristol during post press for this week’s premiere. “I feel very blessed and honored and I believe it has been received well.”
Photo Credit: RayCornelius.com + David Genik