“Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times”: A Short Film
Today I’m offering you a short film (12 mins.) entitled “Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times.” It’s a British film by Marcus Markou. It tells the story of two men, seemingly very different from each other, who happen to meet five times over the course of several decades. I really, really love this film! I wouldn’t post it for you if I didn’t think it was worth your valuable time. For me, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen on racism/prejudice. It’s won numerous awards (I counted 17 first place awards from film festivals all over the world.) Following the film, I’ve written a few questions for your reflection. I thought they might help you “process” the film. If they help, fine. If not, that’s okay too. I suggest you don’t read the questions until you have viewed the film.
If you have trouble with the British accent, click on the closed caption (cc) icon.
The film starts with “The second time” the two men meet. The first time comes later in the film.
In England, an ATM is called a “cash point.”
Now, here’s the movie:
Now that you have watched the film, here are a few questions for reflection/sharing below:
What did you think of the film? (Did you like it? Why or why not? How would you describe the film in one word (or a few)?
When Alistair and Sam meet at the ATM, how does Alistair immediately reveal his prejudice/racism? Does the film offer any clues as to the origin of his prejudice?
When the two men meet in the office, Sam remembers Alistair, but Alistair doesn’t seem to remember Sam. How could this be?
When the two men meet again on the street, Alistair remembers Mr. Aziz, but Sam doesn’t seem to remember Alistair. What stands out to you about their exchange? What affect does Mr. Aziz’s generous gift have on Alistair? What “advice” does Mr. Aziz give Alistair right before he leaves?
What stands out to you when the two young boys meet for the first time? What does Alistair’s mother say to him as she abruptly pulls him away from Sam?
What stands out to you in their fifth meeting in the senior assisted living facility? Do they recognize each other? How have both men changed since their previous meetings? Do you think there’s a possibility that they can actually become friends? Why or why not?
Does the film shed a light on your own prejudices or racist attitudes or behaviors?
Did you notice what the first two words are in the film? Any significance?
Are the two men really “strangers”? Explain your answer.
The filmmaker, Marcus Markou, says he wanted to make a short film about racism—but not the glaring kind that we see in our history of slavery or in the holocaust. He wanted to make a film about the “low level everyday” kind of racism that “poisons” our society. Do you think he achieves this?
Have you ever experienced (or contributed to) the “low level racism that poisons society”?
Interesting note: The two lead actors actually attended the same school growing up. But this is the first time (I think) that they were ever in a movie together.
Now it’s your turn to share some of your responses to the film below. Please comment on what you thought about the film, what you noticed, and any other comments you wish to make. My other readers and I would LOVE to hear from you! THANK YOU!
Oh Melannie! I write these words with tears in my eyes! Thank you for sharing this, maybe one of the most beautiful films — short, long, whatever — I have ever seen!
Let’s see, there’s learned racism in a sandbox, but the power of a single kind act, and the restoration of a life because of that kind act. On another level, we meet so many people in our lifetime, and yes we will forget many of them, but what we remember are actions — good or bad. As we go through life, what do we want to be? A bad memory or a good one? Surely a good one! I am going to shout this film from the rooftops!
John, Thank you for sharing your enthusiastic response to this short film. I hope your words will encourage other readers to watch it and to respond in any way they want. I loved your phrase “the power or a single kind act.” It made me pause for a few minutes and recall a few of the many kind acts I have received from others throughout my life and the power these acts had on my life. I recalled my mother’s gentle forgiveness over something “bad” I did as a child, a baby sitter’s obvious love for us four kids, a college professor’s compliment about my writing… If I were teaching high school or college students right now, I’d find a way to use this film in class… Thank you for your future efforts to make this film better known. Melannie
Also, when they meet in the nursing home, I found it significant that the aid says, “Maybe a walk in the garden.” Possibly a reference to a return to the innocence of their original meeting?
Like God strolling with Adam and Eve in the garden…
Firstly, thank you Sister for sharing this beautiful film and your insightful questions regarding it. I applaud the filmmaker and all involved in it, for it is precisely twelve minutes like these that change lives and society.
I could answer in length all of your reflective questions, but I will limit this post to two main points. The first words proclaimed in the film are “Jesus Christ.” This sets the core and summit of what follows. In the opening, the name is profaned with impatience, but nonetheless, Christ’s sacred image prevails. One could ask if Alistair subconsciously directs this profanity to Sam because he resembles the historic Christ.
When the boys fill the castle mold pail together, Christ is present in their shared dignity of co-creating something beautiful. In the end, Christ is still present as they empty themselves of all the contrived notions we humans accumulate through our lives. They are once again free, innocent, and open to co-create something beautiful with Christ.
Joanne, Thank you for your beautiful response. I liked especially your words about the two young boys building a sand castle together. Yes, they are “co-creating something beautiful.” Your words about the end of the film are quite good—their need to “empty themselves of all the contrived notions” they have accumulated during their lives. By the end, they are “free, innocent, and open” to create a friendship with each other. For us Christians, those first words in the film give us a deeper appreciation of Jesus and what our faith in him can accomplish. Thank you for pointing all of this out so beautifully! Melannie
I have so many thoughts and emotions running through me after watching this I don’t think I can write my answers to your thought provoking questions, I do want to write thank you for sharing this with me, I found it very moving and important
Maureen, I’m so glad the film filled you with thoughts and emotions. I too found the film “very moving and important.” Thanks for responding! Melannie
All I can say is this brought me to tears😭😭
And this response says a lot about the film–and about you, Marie. Thank you! Melannie
Okay, I’m back again! So today I showed it to my students. They viewed it, wrote about it in their journals, and then we talked about it. Several of my students were weeping by the end. One students pointed out that if Samir had not remembered the racist incident at that cashpoint and had given Alistaire the job, then Alistaire would not have ended up being the kind, caring person he becomes by the end of the film. I also sent the film to all the adult in the Fontbonne learning community!
John, Thank you for sharing your students’ responses to this film. I’m impressed with that one student’s remark. Yes, perhaps Alistair’s compassion is a result of his own suffering–as well as the kindness of Mr. Aziz… I wonder what your colleagues are going to think of it… Melannie
A very powerful 12 minutes. Thank you for sharing this. I can certainly see a certain prejudice that I experienced growing up. It was a part of our lives. Every group was called by a negative name and that’s what some of us grew up believing until we learned differently. As Maya Angelou has said . . . We remember how people make us feel. We carry so much baggage with us and it seems as if we have made little progress. Looking at this film, I just wanted to cry for all the times this still happens in our world today. Will we ever learn we are all the same. Thank you for this and for your blog. Peace be with you.
Kathy, I agree that prejudices of all kinds permeated our lives growing up (no matter when we were growing up!) And they still poison the air today. But (as a former history teacher) I remind myself of the progress we’ve made throughout history. This should encourage us to keep forging ahead… Your words reflect your sensitivity (“I just wanted to cry for all the times this still happens in our world today.”) May we all continue to be so sensitive, educate ourselves, work for greater justice, and daily pray for God’s help. Thanks for responding, Kathy. Melannie
What a beautiful message! I agree with the readers’ comments. I will forward this to my children & grandchildren. Thank you again Melanie.
And thank you, Peggy. I’m glad you found it valuable enough to share with others! Melannie
Thank you, Sister for sharing this film. It is a powerful film that brought tears to my eyes. I plan on sharing this with my children and grandchildren.
Kathleen, I’m glad you also thought this film was important enough to share with others! Thank you for letting me know. Melannie
Please add me to your list.
Ahh…so beautiful…first two words…Jesus Christ…thank you for bringing this to us!
To me, it shows the many opportunities in life God gives us to make things right.
Thank you Sr. Melannie for your blog!