Sean Buckelew’s films often explore the complicated relationship between humanity and technology. His latest short Drone, now available online, is no exception.
Like much of Buckelew’s work, Drone has a simple, life-like aesthetic that can lull a viewer into a false sense of familiarity before turning in another direction altogether. In the film, Buckelew tells the story of a combat drone named Newton that, after a facial identity software malfunction, grows a sense of self and a conscience. Initially meant to be part the face of the government’s rebranded drone program, Newton’s rise to influencer status could hardly have been predicted by the CIA.
The conceit probably sounds familiar, and while watching the short comparisons to Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant are nearly impossible to avoid. But, where Bird looked to the past to tell his story about a self-aware weapon lamenting its programmed nature, Buckelew’s fable is far more current. It also adds a new wrinkle to the tale by reflecting on humanity’s tendency towards group thinking through the filter of social media.