timespace coordinates: 1999, turn of the century (near-future) Los Angeles (racial war zone / New Year’s Eve party)
Strange Days is a 1995 American science fiction thriller film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks, and produced by Cameron and Steven-Charles Jaffe. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, and Tom Sizemore. Set in the last two days of 1999, the film follows the story of a black marketeer of SQUID discs, recordings that allow a user to experience the recorder’s memories and physical sensations, as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the murder of a prostitute.
Blending science fiction with film noir conventions, Strange Days explores themes such as racism, abuse of power, rape, and voyeurism. Although the story was conceived by Cameron around 1986, Bigelow found inspiration after incidents such as the Lorena Bobbitt trial and the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the Rodney King verdict.
Strange Days was a commercial failure and almost derailed Bigelow’s career (…) Nevertheless, the film’s critical standing has improved over the years, with many fans feeling that the film has been overlooked by a casual mass audience and misguided critics.
The scene where the crowd celebrates the turn of the new century at the end of the film was shot at the corner of the 5th and Flower streets, between the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and the Los Angeles Public Library. Over 50 off-duty police officers were hired to control an assembled crowd of 10,000 people, who had to pay $10 in advance to attend the event. The film-makers also hired rave promoters Moss Jacobs and Philip Blaine to produce performances featuring Aphex Twin, Deee-Lite, as well as “all the cyber-techno bands they could garner”.
In 2015, The Washington Post editor Sonny Bunch felt that Strange Days was still relevant, comparing the imagery captured by the SQUID units to that of first-person shooters or cellphone videos on YouTube. He added that events such as Jeriko One’s murder and the subsequent coverup of the crime contribute to activist movements like Black Lives Matter, and that their media documentation amplifies their reception and consequences. (read more: Themes)