Drop-Off is an imaginative and enjoyable short by Writer/Director Shawn Cortel, who also
stars. The story follows an African-American male protagonist (Cortel), who makes his way across New York, taking orders and making drop-offs of an unspecified product. He speaks to his supplier, a heavily built,
tattooed man (O'Connell), and visits various establishments to make his deliveries. When he is apprehended by two undercover cops (Ford and Granese) it becomes clear that the film is cleverly subverting and questioning expectations.
The cinematography by Sten Olson is delighful; it makes beautiful use of New York City’s natural light
- and on several occasions enhances the storytelling with the framing. When the protagonist
visits a middle-class family, both he and the family are shown in one shot but he is framed in the reflection of a mirror, suggesting a sense of alienation; that perhaps he is not a part of their world. This subtly implies that what he’s dropping off might be an illicit substance; as do the occasional hand-held wide shots in the street which imply that he might be being watched by the authorities.
The soundtrack throughout is an upbeat funk track - 'Low Down' by Boz Scaggs - which creates a sunny, warm tone. The music also engenders a slightly 1970s vibe, harking back to films from that era which followed working-class protagonists living and working in the New York City underworld – and thereby again subtly hinting that the protagonist might be engaging in underhand dealings. Whilst the music is lovely, it did seem a slight shame that the dialogue was silent and subtitled, rather than being able to hear the characters speak. For the most part the story is very successfully told visually, but on the odd occasion that dialogue does occur it feels strange to have it subtitled, and distracts from the otherwise excellent storytelling.
Clearly this film – with its African American lead and burly tattooed ‘supplier’ - is playing with stereotypes and audience expectations. When the young man is stopped and searched, and it becomes clear that the delivery substance is something else entirely from what the audience might have assumed, any assumptions that might have been made are delightfully turned on their head. And the fact that the protagonist and his supplier laugh about the situation afterwards makes the film feel warm, uplifting and gently political, rather than forceful or didactic.
This is a very enjoyable and memorable film, and at 6 minutes, is a snappy, subtly political and very well executed piece which will undoubtedly enjoy festival success.
Watch the Trailer:
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Written & Directed by: Shawn Cortel
STARRING: Shawn Cortel, Sid O'Connell, Josh Ford, Spenser Granese