Update - SFiFF 55 - A Very Foreign Film... Set in New York! (“Gimme the Loot”)
When most people think of foreign film, they think of films in a language they don’t understand, locations they’ve never been to, actors they’ve never heard of, and stories unique to a specific culture. We often fail to acknowledge that there are places and cultures within our own borders that can be just as foreign to us as any Asian or European community.
“Gimme the Loot,” which is playing at the San Francisco International Film Festival, is just such a film. Set in New York City’s Borough of the Bronx (talk about a foreign land!) the film tells the story of Malcolm and Sofia, a “tagging team” that set their sights on the greatest “bombing” target in the history of New York graffiti. All they need is $500 to get access to the sight. And so the adventure begins…
And that is just what this film really is – an urban adventure story. The story of two young people who set out on a trek and what happens to them along the way. If you’re put off by the setting, or the language (which seems to have been scripted by David Mamet in the opening scene,) or the “Maguffin” of the graffiti bomb, please don’t be. All those things are ancillary in this tale of the challenges in navigating the foreign land of inner city New York and what happens along the way. It's a funny, harsh, sweet, heartbreaking and oddly (though not unexpectedly) optimistic movie. For all the wrongdoing the couple perpetrate in their attempt to achieve their goal, you end up really liking the characters and kind of wishing they succeed.
The two lead actors, Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington, are terrific in their roles. While their inexperience shows through at times, for the most part they ARE Malcolm and Sophia. The director, Adam Leon, assured the Festival audience that they are both nothing like their characters (“Ty actually wears bow ties all the time.”)
Leon also had the advantage of having a former NYC tour guide work as his location scout, so the film transports you into parts of New York that you’d never get to see get to see on your standard city excursion. Shot on location over 21 days, every setting seems just right for this story.
Special note should also be given to the soundtrack, which is absolutely what you would NOT expect for a story with characters of their age and environment. One would expect a plethora of hip hop or rap pulsing throughout the film, but be prepared for something just a little different.
This is writer/director Leon’s first feature and he’s manages to deliver a film that, while small in budget, is big in heart. Well worth seeking out…