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Hold Up

average rating is 4 out of 5


Jason Knight


Posted on:

Jul 25, 2023

Film Reviews
Hold Up
Directed by:
Alex Rollins Berg
Written by:
Alex Rollins Berg
Philip Ettinger, Renrick Palmer

A guy has a meaningful interaction with an underprivileged man that he encounters on an underground train station.


This short drama is based on an actual experience the director had with an Eritrean on a Harlem subway station.


It is the summer of 2020 and Graham (Ettinger), a young man, is in a hurry to get home, as his girlfriend is trying to deal with bungled delivery involving a couch. Shortly after he arrives at an underground railway station, Hashim (Palmer) a young African American approaches him and attempts to sell him a bottle of lotion. Graham has no cash on him and Hashim proceeds to beg him to help him, as he is desperate. Graham agrees to buy food for him with a bank card and they end up in a pizzeria. As time goes by, Graham is eager to catch the next train, while Hashim seems to want to spend more time together.


Social class differences is arguably the most obvious theme in this story. Graham is priviledged, having a good job, a partner etc. and carries a laptop, while Hashim is struggling through life, being poor, hungry and homeless. Racism is also present, as Graham is Caucasian and Hashim is black and as mentioned, the narrative takes place during the summer of 2020, shortly after the murder of African American George Floyd at the hands of police and this is hinted by a brief news photo on a laptop screen. With these in mind, the film takes a hard-hitting look into the lives of African Americans in the United States, depicting them as poor, living harsh lives and being victims of brutality.


This short could be categorised as a buddy film, with two individuals who meet by accident and come from very different walks of life. Hashim is a person who is living an unfortunate life, however he is self-aware and mentally strong. He clearly wants to move on to better things and be acknowledged and he is played brilliantly by Palmer. Ettinger's character comes across as decent, although he refuses to really connect with Hashim.


The film gains significantly by Sean Patrick Kirby's stunning cinematography and the sounds of underground trains moving are quite effective.


This is a moving story about a chance meeting between two strangers that develops into a sort of rapport. The film explores issues regarding the hardships of life, particularly the challenges that black people face in the United States. However, not all themes are negative as the importance of helping those in need is pointed out, as well as the idea of being grateful for what one has.

About the Film Critic
Jason Knight
Jason Knight
Short Film
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