"Despite the ghetto settings and the strong language, the film feels quite lightweight and comedic"

Malcolm and Sofia are a pair of wannabe graffiti artists based in the Bronx, New York City. When they find out that a rival gang has trashed their turf, they plan their revenge, which would be to tag the New York Mets' Home Run Apple at Citi Field stadium. To achieve that feat they need to put together $500 to bribe the stadium’s guard.

A European film set in the Bronx, a fresh take on ghetto life in one of the world’s biggest melting pots, one of the finest debuts in recent memory: all of this is Gimme The Loot, the first feature film by director/screenwriter Adam Leon. Funded with Kickstarter and cast with brilliant unknown actors, this outstanding example of guerrilla filmmaking won the Grand Jury Prize at South By Southwest.

Admittedly influenced by Raymond Abrashkin's 1953 film Coney Little Fugitive, Leon uses his slim plot as a mere basis for the character study of clumsy Malcolm and tomboy Sofia and their platonic relationship. Such an art-house flair is hard to find in films that depict American street culture, but Leon proves to possess a strong and individual voice.

After months of rehearsals, the movie was shot in 21 days in the Bronx and Manhattan. With an ex-NYC tour guide enlisted as location scout, the director found unusual corners of the city where he could shoot scenes on the fly, possibly without permission.

Despite the ghetto settings and the strong language, the film feels quite lightweight and comedic, another feat that adds to its originality. Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington inhabit their characters with a naturalness that’s beyond praise. We follow them through their quest for an improbable goal and, despite their wrongful ways, we can’t help sympathizing for this ultimately goofy and loveable pair: they are victims of the environment where they grew up, the only reality that they know, yet their good hearted nature shows a glimmer of hope. Another noteworthy debutant, Zoe Lescaze, plays Ginnie, the fleeting object of Malcom’s desire.

An eclectic soundtrack, ranging from vintage R&B to alternative rock, works as the perfect accompaniment to this unique take on the crime genre which, thanks to its director’s particular view and essential style, succeeds on every level.