Sebatian’s Voodoo is an animated short film by Joaquin Baldwin, a student at UCLA. Baldwin, a Paraguay native, has earned over 120 international awards for his varied works. Sebastian’s Voodoo earned numerous awards; 29 in total, including a silver metal in the animation category at the 2009 Student Academy Awards, finishing second to Kavi, a film we viewed as a class.
Sebastian’s Voodoo is a story of friendship in a dire situation. It speaks clearly to the idea of self sacrifice for the greater good. The voodoo dolls are the captives, hung on dirty racks in a grungy room, simply waiting for death. The dolls are rendered in a unique way; extremely high resolution. You can see the desperation in the eyes and silent interaction between the eventual victims, even with just the most basic features. Each doll is composed of simple felt, their only features are two stitched eyes and a red X to clearly mark the heart.
The film itself lacks dialogue entirely, however, the sheer excellence of the animation turns this fact into an extreme advantage. Any conversation would have taken away from the impact of the film, in my opinion.
Baldwin stepped into an uphill battle when creating this film. Nearly every technical aspect of the film draws away from a dramatic experience, almost as if the director was hoping to challenge himself. His intent was clearly to create a moving film, one that speaks to the heart of the viewer. He wants the audience to connect on a deep level with simple objects. He loses the advantage of a human connection when deciding to use the VooDoo concept, and actually turns the viewer against the only human in the film; the captor. Even the films animation could potentially add to this disconnect as most people associate animation with more lighthearted subjects. He also chooses to play out the entire film in under 5 minutes, putting himself against the clock to form a connection and establish his intent.
Baldwin overcomes these obstacles and then some with this film. Sebastian’s Voodoo has a more compelling story than most feature films that are released. Nick Fevola’s excellent musical scores only add to the dramatics.The film is a display of spectacular animation and storytelling all done in minimal time. The story is compelling enough that it could be expanded to feature length, although this may take from the impact.
He makes the decision to only show the hands of the torturer until the final moments of the film. I believe this helps to keep the focus on the main point, the dolls. The anonymity of the captor creates a notion that they are being held by a greater power, invoking the feeling of an impossible situation.
One scene in particular shows clearly the influence the film can have. In the final moments of the film, one doll in the grasp of the enemy, the other, having escaped, desperate to save him. The rogue doll locks himself into the human captor, and begins using his voodoo powers, attempting to slow the inevitable. He stabs his arm and causes a jolt to the human, barely slowing him. Then, he moves to his leg. The pain this causes can be seen clearly on the simple face of the animated doll. Then, as the human’s pin crawls toward the victim, the two dolls know what needs to be done. They lock eyes, and with sadness painted on its face, the main character makes the ultimate sacrifice, plunging the pin through his own heart, killing the human and freeing the rest of the dolls.
The film leaves a somber mood about it, and I cannot emphasize enough how impressed I was with Baldwin’s ability to animate a film. I went into the film expecting a simple animated story, and what I got was an excellent film that happened to be animated. My only gripe is that I would like to keep watching.