Jess Dela Merced’s short “Hypebeasts” makes a clear comment on materialism and racism

Winner of the 2012 Spike Lee Fellowship, Filipino-American Jess Dela Merced presents a contemporary edition of Spike Lee’s classic “Do The Right Thing”, inspired by a real-life incident of anti-Asian racism in Southern California.

The film begins with the upcoming opening of a shop that is going to put on market the hottest new shoes. A line of youths is already in place from the night before, and three friends, Danny, Ronny and his sister, Justine are on their way to the line. Before going there, they stop at a fast food in order to buy “ammunition” for the waiting. However, after they leave the shop, they realize that the African-American that served them has named them Ching-Chongs in the receipt. Justine is infuriated and wants to return to the shop, but the other two do not share her opinion, and prefer to get in line. Eventually, she follows them. However, after a while the same African-American also arrives at the shop and even cuts in line. Justine cannot take it anymore and she confronts him, in a series of events that end up in a riot in front of the shop.

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Dela Merced makes some obvious points with her film. Everybody is a racist, since even Justine resorts into harsh racist comments when confronting the fast food clerk and his company, and they reply in the same manner. The second one concerns materialism and the ridiculousness of it, particularly among young people obsessed with fashion and the latest trend. The scene where Danny and Ronny decide that they prefer to go stand in the line to buy shoes instead with dealing with a clearly racist episode is a clear indication of the attitude most youths have on serious matters. The riot that ensues, shows where racism always leads.

The acting is on a very good level for a short. Dela Merced plays Justine and is quite good in portraying her character’s misguided frustration. Michael Rosete as Ronny presents his character’s conflict in convincing fashion, while Jake Choi as Danny has a more comic-relief part. The one who steals the show though is Trevon Davis as the fast food attendant, as he manages to appear annoying and unjustifiable at all times.

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The production is very good, with the image being impressively good. Matthew Mendelson’s cinematography realistically presents the various locations the short takes place, while the Jackeline Tejada’s editing has its highlight in the initial sequence, which looks like something between a music video and an advertisement.

“Hypebeasts” is an impressive debut that presents its messages clearly.

You can watch the full film below

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