Malfunctioning UAV becomes viral sensation in Sean Buckeye's "Drone"

Sean Battkew's work often explores the complex relationship between humanity and technology. His latest short film, "Drone," is no exception.

Like many of Backeu's films, "Drone" has a simple, vital aesthetic that lures the viewer into a false sense of familiarity before taking them in a completely different direction. In this film, Backeu tells the story of a combat drone named Newton that comes to have an ego and conscience after a malfunction in its facial recognition software. Initially intended to be the face of the government's rebranded drone program, the CIA could not have predicted that Newton would rise to influencer status.

The conceit will probably sound familiar, and while watching the short it is almost impossible to avoid comparisons to Brad Bird's The Iron Giant. But whereas Bird looked to the past to tell the story of a self-aware weapon that laments its programmed nature, Buckeye's allegory is far more contemporary. It also adds a new wrinkle to the story by reflecting humanity's tendency toward groupthink through the filter of social media.

When Newton's tweets are live-streamed around the world, watched by millions of followers, the drone becomes a real influencer. At one point, the drone landed in rural America, where fans spray-painted smiley faces on the drone's paws.

By the end of the short, "Drone" feels like both an homage to "The Iron Giant" and a poke at the affection many people have for the titular robot in "The Iron Giant."

"Drone" is a story about the CIA's attempt to paint other UAVs with Newton's painfully ends with the announcement of the continuation of the drone program while painting his face on other UAVs.

Newton's charisma and love for humanity make it a sympathetic character. But will a graffiti-like smile and a bit of introspection about the ethics of murder be enough to convert the masses in favor of the military drone program?

"Drone" enjoyed strong festival screenings, including competition screenings in Annecy, Ottawa, and Sitges. Written and directed by Bacquelieu, the film was produced by Janet Janenne, producer of "My Year of Dicks," which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film this year.