Summer Shorts: Sebastian's Voodoo

28-May-10 11:00 AM by
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With the last two weekly shorts being fairly light-hearted, I thought the third entry in the Summer Shorts series should shake things up a bit. The Black Hole, shown here last summer, toed the line of comedy and tragedy in that live-action short. Accompanying it in the fifth annual National Film Board of Canada Online Short Film Competition was the animated short Sebastian's Voodoo, which goes full-bore to the dark side while still offering a message of hope:

Sebastian's Voodoo takes the well-known concept of voodoo folk magic and gives it nuance. For a doll to represent a living entity, it too must have some connection to a life force. If so, then does it flow both ways? Must a voodoo practitioner have his own doll?

These questions are not just philosophical but have realistic applications and contexts. What gives any one person more right to live than another? It's a moral dilemma that has been examined again and again, from Hitchcock's Lifeboat to Roddenberry's Star Trek. In Sebastian's Voodoo, the hero's decision reminds me of the climax of one of my favorite fantasy films, Dragonheart, but in a visual style similar to the movie 9. The result wasn't inevitable, though; a protagonist in a similar scenario but making different decisions can be found in Black Button. Sebastian's Voodoo is also slated to become a feature-length film — but will it remain a dark morality play, or will Hollywood turn it into something more kid-friendly?

What films have helped you explore life-and-death decisions?

Life moves pretty fast…

20-Sep-07 4:13 PM by
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…if you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it."

As a teacher, I used films to teach my students important life concepts. Why did it never occur to me that such wisdom could come from the mouth of Ferris Bueller?

Over at The Sydney Morning Herald (with a tip of the hat to Tech_Space) is a thorough analysis of what makes Ferris Bueller's Day Off more than just another teen movie, and its hero a model for daily living: "Ferris Bueller pretty much embodies everything I believe a man should be: a little dangerous, immensely charming, funny, an optimist, adventurous, challenging, a bit dodgy, curious, subversive, latitudinarian and a dab hand with the sheilas… Everything you need to know about life is contained in the 102 minute running time of this '80s classic." And not routine, day-to-day life, but the vibrant energy with which so few of us imbue our waking moments.

But it wasn't always that way. Ferris Bueller's Day Off embodies the rebellious, free-thinking spirit that so many of us slowly let die as we assimilate into adults. Ferris opens the film by observing, "It is a beautiful day in Chicago," and seeing the opportunity therein. We the audience empathize with him, but only because in reality, we represent the tide he is swimming against: those who too often go through the motions and let each day slip by, just to bring another paycheck. What happens to us? If life is a carousel, whyever did we choose to get off? Our lives are not Ferris Bueller's, and we are rarely as brave as Cameron Frye. Why do we let reality define us, instead of vice versa? Is there an age at which we turn off our imaginations and stop struggling?

I should've shown this film to my 11th-grade students and let it infuse them with ideas with which to run amuck in the other teachers' classrooms. It's too late for me to do them this service — but while you read Sydney's lengthy blog post, which is worth every second, perhaps I can go watch the film myself, for the first time in over a decade, and be depressed at what I've lost… or inspired at what I might regain.