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'It blew me away': Fargo filmmaker celebrates new movie on Netflix produced by Spike Lee

Claudette (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) experience time travel in "See You Yesterday." Netflix / Special to The Forum1 / 2
Matthew Meyers and his wife, Jacqueline Bussie, in Times Square, New York, with a billboard for the movie "See You Yesterday" that he co-produced. Special to The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — As a kid, Stefon Bristol was raised on comic books and the “Back to the Future” franchise.

As a young man, he studied under Spike Lee at New York University.

He wears all of those influences on his sleeve in his feature-length film debut, “See You Yesterday,” which starts streaming on Netflix on Friday, May 17.

The sci-fi adventure film got a rare premiere at the Fargo Theatre late last week thanks to Matthew Myers, a Fargo-based filmmaker who served as executive producer on the project.

“Stefon wanted to make ‘Do the Right Thing’ as a superhero movie,” says Myers. “Our pitch to Netflix was, ‘Back to the Future’ meets Black Lives Matter."

In that spirit, Myers wore a “Black to da future” T-shirt at the Fargo Theatre screening on May 10.

The film follows two smart, black students, Claudette (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), at a science high school in Brooklyn. They hope that their project, developing time-traveling backpacks, will get them into the college of their choice — but after Claudette’s innocent brother Calvin (Astro) is mistakenly shot and killed by police, they use the devices to go back in time and try to save him.

What starts as a fun summer adventure film takes twists and turns until the very end, mixing comedy and light moments with striking social commentary, touching on excessive policing, violence in our culture, the importance of family and the benefits of teamwork, all with a strong female lead character.

The film is rated TV-MA and includes some language people may find offensive and the effects of violence.

“I read the script and it blew me away. It’s not often we get to make genre films that make social statements. For me, that’s a magic thing,” Myers says.

Starting a conversation

Like Bristol, Myers also studied film at NYU with Lee, who was a producer for the film. The cast and crew contains a number of NYU alumni.

“It was kind of like a family operation,” Myers says, echoing the strong familial theme in the film.

Bristol even makes a cinematic nod to his former teacher, using a signature Lee shot in the film. There are even more obvious references to Bristol’s influences, including a smart cameo appearance.

Claudette also shows off her inspirations in teenage fashion, wearing a NASA T-shirt that reads “I need my space” and another of an unidentified female superhero of color.

In addition to her smarts, Claudette is a tenacious protector of friends and family, but her fiery spirit and determination also gets her into trouble.

“Her stubbornness is her superpower,” Myers says. “That’s one of the great traits of superheroes, their resilience.”

As executive producer on the film, Myers was in charge of many of the developments on the Brooklyn set, overseeing rewrites by Bristol and co-writer Fredrica Bailey, casting decisions and production of the film.

The movie premiered earlier this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, where Myers said it was a thrill to hear the audience cheer, laugh and even gasp at the surprise cameo. He was just as happy to hear the same responses when “See You Yesterday” was screened at the Fargo Theatre last week.

While he knows those communal audience experiences won’t translate to home viewing on Netflix, he hopes the film brings people together to talk about the film and the issues it raises.

“I hope people embrace it and it starts a conversation about a systemic problem in society: racism, bigotry and police brutality,” Myers says, noting that Bristol started the film in the wake of fatal police shootings that led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Stefon did what the best filmmakers do, he channeled that into his art,” Myers says. “He makes the political personal.”