This short film (discovered through Racialicious) about racial conflict (perceived or real, intentional or physical) won’t be easy to watch, especially when minimal context is given in its 13-minute run-time. Many films that introduce familiarly emblematic characters with hardly any background stories operate merely on a symbolic level. What you see and what you take with you after the viewing will largely depend on your own background and perception of racism. I’m rather ambivalent about the film, perhaps due to my failure to grasp what Wesley Du, writer and director of the film, is getting at. Even if it does not shed new insighst on issues as complex as as this, If I Was Like You at least opens up a thread for discussion about racial tensions beyond the black and white.
1. Is the feud between Billy and the other two gangsters a racial issue at all? Is the difference of their race the first thing we register, and how does it affect how we process the story? Would the story play differently if the two youths who attack Billy were white or Asian? Or if the son and the youths reversed their races and the African-American father used racial slurs against Asian-Americans?
2. By using the n-word, Daniel is being/acting intentionally offensive and racist. Is he unjustly taking his anger and frustration out on a whole community based on race, or is he provoking a confrontation that might lead to clues that solve his son’s murder?
3. Does (perceived/intentional) racist behavior equal racist intention? Are there things that we do that may be interpreted as racially motivated when they are not? Do we sometimes do these things on purpose for ulterior motives?
4. Daniel loses his son and is taken away by the police. If he is the victim, what is he the victim of? Racial conflict? Social environment of poverty and crime? Community indifference? State injustice? Does the policeman’s race (Caucasian) have any significance in the story? Would the story end differently had he been Asian-American?
5. Is there any significance to the film’s title “If I was like You“? Assuming the first person I here refers to Daniel, in what way does he think he’s different from “you”, the black community, that leads to his son’s death? Would his son have lived had he been of any other race?
6. Would you perceive the film differently, if the writer/director was white?