Oscar-winner Travon Free addresses police killings in acceptance speech

The filmmaker also wore the names of those killed by police to the 93rd Academy Awards

Award shows are no stranger to politics and this year's Oscars was no different.

When "Two Distant Strangers" filmmaker Travon Free took to the stage to accept his award for best live action short film, he addressed the recent spate of police killings that have dominated headlines for several weeks now.

"Today, the police will kill three people, and tomorrow, the police will kill three people, and they say after that, the police will kill three people," he began. "Because on average, the police in America kill three people, which amounts to about a thousand people a year.

The filmmaker continued: "Those people happen to disproportionately be Black people."

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Free, 36, then offered a James Baldwin quote: "The most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain."

Adding his own piece, Free continued: "I just ask that you ... please, don’t be indifferent to our pain."

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He also made a statement on the red carpet, wearing a Dolce & Gabbana suit lined with the names of those killed by police brutality in the United States.

Duante Wright, Tamir Rice and Stephen Clark are among the names featured on his and his co-director Martin Desmond Roe's jackets.

Free reiterated his stance backstage to reporters during a virtual press conference after his win, explaining that the idea for the film had come to him while he was "protesting and marching" for those who have died "at the hands of police."

In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Travon Free attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards in a yellow bow tie and matching black and yellow jacket lined with the scripted names of Black Americans killed by police officers. 

In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Travon Free attends the 93rd Annual Academy Awards in a yellow bow tie and matching black and yellow jacket lined with the scripted names of Black Americans killed by police officers.  (Photo by Matt Petit /A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)

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"It started with an idea. I had an idea while we were out protesting and marching, that was spurred on by how I was feeling about what I was seeing, how I was feeling about internalizing the pain of seeing so many Black people be killed at the hands of the police," Free said.

"In thinking about the emotional rollercoaster you go on every time you hear a new name or a new story or see a new video, it put me in the mindset of, this feels like living the worst version of 'Groundhog Day,'" he continued.

"The feeling would not go away. And so because it was the pandemic and we weren't working, we weren't doing anything, I felt like I wanted to probably sit down and do something with it," he explained. 

Free added: "And so I told Martin about the idea and I asked him if this was something that we could make or and do like right now – which was crazy at the time because it was a pandemic and we're trying to make a short film – which how do you even go about doing that in a regular or a non-pandemic time period? And to do it then at the time seemed crazy. But we kind of defied that all the way to this stage here."

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"Two Distant Strangers," the film that they won an award for on Sunday, chronicles an encounter between a Black man and a police officer. It has been acquired by Netflix.