REVIEW: Please Hold [2021]

Rating: 8 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 19 minutes
    Release Date: 2021 (USA)
    Studio: Scavenger Entertainment
    Director(s): KD Davila
    Writer(s): KD Davila & Omer Levin Menekse

Always read the fine print.

After the debacle that was Don’t Look Up, it’s nice to know satire is alive and well courtesy of KD Davila‘s short film Please Hold. Where the former refuses to acknowledge its thinly veiled metaphor for what just happened in America during the COVID-19 crisis (choosing to willfully pretend as though it’s hypothesizing a future, unrelated tragedy instead), the latter knows exactly what it’s doing. Because while the idea of an automated justice system stripping human beings of their right to know what they’re being accused of doing is something to fear, the reality is that the experience Mateo (Erick Lopez) endures is already something poor Americans know all too well. Thanks to for-profit prisons taking over the incarceration industry coast-to-coast, these paywalls have been active for years.

Davila and co-writer Omer Levin Menekse wouldn’t have achieved the same impact had they just created a film about a wrongfully accused man being forced to choose between the risk of losing decades of his life by going to trial and agreeing to plead guilty (despite his innocence) so he can mitigate the damage this mistake has caused. Why? Because the public is apathetic. Half the population believes that someone can only be arrested in error because they’ve allowed themselves to be put in a situation where that error can be made. They don’t consider profiling. Identical names. Religious persecution. Or the big one: a corrupt law enforcement system. To truly reach audiences that have already made up their minds, one must deflect with a comedic delivery device.

And the one they create is brilliant. Rather than a disinterested cop ignoring Mateo’s declaration of innocence, he’s confronted by an airborne drone holding a gun and taser. Put the cuffs on and follow it to the precinct or be incapacitated. The result might be the same, but at least he’s conscious for one with the opportunity of finding a human offering clarity. Except there aren’t any humans. One drone passes Mateo to the next. Instead of answering his legitimate questions (What am I accused of doing?), they say “Comply or be hurt.” So, he compiles. He discovers the only way to acquire information is to pay exorbitant amounts of money on a lawyer and that if he misspeaks, the cartoon public defender may enter the wrong plea.

It’s a dystopian nightmare of epic proportions because it doesn’t take long before that intentionally dangled, rotting carrot of a choice between a lesser sentence and risking life in prison becomes everything to Mateo’s future. The sweatshop-by-way-of-meal-kit-economy parody is a nice touch, but the infinity loop of selective dialogue is the real horror. Because that’s our current world. That’s every citizen video of a police officer saying he/she doesn’t have to give a reason for his/her actions. Davila’s vision is of a present too many of us are too privileged to acknowledge exists. Switch prison and lawyer fees with cancer and medical costs and you get the same result. Automation isn’t the villain. Our indifference to the plight of the disadvantaged has already turned us into the robots.

courtesy of ShortsTV

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