Director Stefon Bristol recently sat down with EBONY to discuss his Netflix film, See You Yesterday, and how Black women inspired critical parts of the storyline.
The film is the first feature to be directed by Bristol, a protégé of Spike Lee. It takes places in his hometown of Brooklyn and involves best friends and science prodigies Claudette Josephine Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Brian Crichlow), and how they use their time-traveling backpacks to try to undo the police killing of the teen girl’s older brother.
According to Diverse magazine's website, Black students are severely underrepresented in STEM-related fields, making up only 6 percent of the population of engineers in the United States. Bristol made a deliberate choice to make his lead characters Black teens and arguably the greatest scientists of modern time.
“When I was thinking of ideas of time travel, I was like, ‘Well, how are they going to do it?’ I didn’t want to have them go through a portal or have someone else build the time machine for them,” he said. “[I thought] it would be amazing if they invented it for themselves so young Black kids could see that they can be brilliant, too.”
Bristol continued that train of thought when he decided to name the lead character in honor of Madam C.J. Walker, the historic entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist, and the first self-made Black female millionaire. He hoped to inspire viewers to think “if this one character is really good at science and entrepreneurship, what other Black inventors and scientists in our recent history are?”
Most sci-film films rarely have people of color as leads or women in lead roles. The director decided to have C.J. be both. He said it was a “powerful” choice because he’s “never seen a character like [C.J.] before, [one who is] a Black woman in STEM trying to be a superhero.”
Bristol seemed to model his vision of Black women by those around him, including his mother, who he said refinanced her home so that he could create the See You Yesterday short film, which was his thesis for New York University’s Graduate Film program.
See You Yesterday is streaming on Netflix.