Eugene Cho

the voodoo video i couldn’t show at quest

still_sebastians_voodoo_02

Thanks to the collective wisdom of our larger staff, I pulled this “voodoo video” from last week’s Good Friday service.

But I still really like this video.  Very thought provoking so I’m now sharing and showing it here on my blog – for your viewing and commentary (video below).

It’s disturbing on several levels including the usage of ‘voodoo’ in it’s title which isn’t the best word in a church context but from an artistic level, this is an amazing video. The incredible animation is created by 26 year old artist Joaquin Baldwin.  I don’t know him personally but after watching this video, I suspect he may have been influenced by Christianity in some shape or another.  When you watch the film, you’ll see some Christian parallels.  Had I shown it, it would have taken some good explanation why I was showing the clip.

Here are the reasons this video really made me think:

1.  Evil. It speaks to the reality of the presence of Evil/Satan/Devil/Beelzebub  or whatever name you want to appropriate to the antithesis of God.  I absolutely believe in Satan and its agenda to destroy, manipulate, deceive, and distort.  Human are the target.

2.  Sin is what separates our communion and fellowship with God.  We know the good news and in Christ, can live as Resurrection People, but the reality of sin can still be a daily grind.  What is most disturbing about sin – to me – is how it has the power to strip away the beauty of this truth: we are created in the image of God. I was particularly impressed of this again when we were screening Call + Response at Quest Church several weeks ago.  It blew me away how these sick human traffickers saw many of the women and young girls as commodities to exploit, use, and profit from.  This defines for me the absolute utter darkness of human depravity:  we strip away the sacredness, beauty, and truth that are image bearers of God – the Imago Dei.

Isn’t this true?

  • Slavery = people as commodity and possessions.
  • Pornography = (mostly) women as sex objects.
  • Homelessness = seeing people as bums.

Rather than seeing one another as image bearers of God, we see ourselves as faceless & imageless “dolls.”

3. Gospel.  I know the video isn’t biblically accurate but I couldn’t help see some parallels in watching this video.  A doll dies in order to save others from the evil manipulator.

Do this:

  • Watch in on Full Screen,
  • Turn UP the music,
  • Let me know what you think

[if you’re reading this via an RSS reader, you can watch the video here.]

Filed under: christianity, church, culture, emerging church, faith, religion, ,

32 Responses

  1. […] Wow… Check out this video (via eugene cho) […]

  2. brgulker says:

    Very cool video, no doubt about it.

    I couldn’t help but notice that the hero kills it(?)self, however. That, to me, is a significant departure from the Gospel.

    I think you have teased out some intriguing parallels between the video and the gospel, but I wouldn’t rush to judgment as to the “Christianness” of this particular video.

  3. gar says:

    Very powerful video, and yes, while it might not be doctrinally “pure” the message is clear: a hero is someone who selflessly sacrifices himself/herself to save everyone else.

  4. eugenecho says:

    @brgulker: you’re certainly right. it’s a departure from the exact Gospel story.

    but at least for me, i saw some parallels that made it powerful for me. while the hero kills himself, i sense the deep reticence.

    i also very much enjoyed the scene at the end when LIGHT pierces into the darkness.

    curious to see what others think since most folks i showed it to didn’t really like it. i must be getting old.

  5. […] ‘Sebastian’s Voodoo’ April 14, 2009 Sebastian’s Voodoo from Joaquin Baldwin on Vimeo. (Video HT: Eugene Cho) […]

  6. Nourisha says:

    i think it might demonstrate the ultimate expression of love. the people are faceless but so many of those who need to feel God’s love are faceless to us. that can be overwhelming or unimportant depending on the person. the word says no greater love than this that a man lay down his life for a friend. it’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated for all of humanity and it’s the kind of love we should mimic. i’m not saying go out and martyr yourself, but certainly sacrificing your comfort to help someone is the least we can do!

    and acknowledging that evil is very real is a start. satan’s only goal is to kill, steal and destroy. it hasn’t changed and his attack is the same: lies. the biggest lies are that we can’t do anything to stop injustice in our world and that God sent Jesus for us “civilized” people and no one else. hogwash!!! as a great, yet broken man once said, the only thing necessary for evil to exist in the world is for good men to do nothing. i’m tired of doing nothing.

  7. Dan W. Boles says:

    I have to agree with brgulker, in that the hero killing itself is a significant departure from the story of Christ’s death, however we do know He did lay down his life, as it was the will of God the Father, and He did so “of his own accord.” He didn’t kill himself, he laid down his life. There is a significant difference.

    What I do see in the video, is an interesting parallel for our own lives as followers of Christ, which is not a significant departure from the Gospel; we are called to love one another, even if it means laying down our own lives. It’s our command, our response, to the Resurrection.

    In the words of Christ:

    “(12)This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (13)Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
    – John 15:12-13 (ESV)

  8. Ted Kang says:

    Intended or not the message of sacrifice for salvation of others is certainly a strong parallel to the life of Christ. In fact it would be perfect to illustrate what “Loving your neighbor as yourselves” is all about. No greater love has man than he lay down his life for a friend… No disrespect to leaders of Quest but I don’t see why this was a problem to show at Quest. Nice Video Eugene. How and where can i get a hold of it?

  9. Paul Cabellon says:

    Eugene,
    Only visited Quest a couple of times. Don’t see why this would have been a problem to show to your peeps. Me and the wife have always felt that you project an open and relevant feel without watering down the Word. That’s hard to do, so props to you and your team for that.

    Art is supposed to capture wide themes, not perfect parallels, so I think it would be quite applicable in getting the basic gospel message across -especially to non-believers.

    I’d like to use the video for our young adult ministry. Where can I get it?

    Paul C. from Md.

  10. Brian says:

    It is curious that people argue about such a “big difference” between the doll “killing himself” and Jesus “willingly allowing himself to be killed” (laying down his own life). Jesus had a choice to die or not die for us, simple as that. Does it matter who’s hand was on the spear? If you have the power to stop some dreadful act, but you don’t, aren’t you just as guilty? Anyway, interesting that people make such a big deal about that distinction.

    The animation is incredible. Talented guy, no doubt.

  11. Chris says:

    Brian…I was about to share a similar line of thought…until I realized you beat me to it. ;-)

    The reticence portrayed could be parallel to the Garden of Gethsemani, don’t you think?

    Yes, if Jesus had the power to save himself and didn’t…it’s tough to argue for such a disparity between voodoo hero and our great Redeemer.

    Someone makes a good point about the intent of art also. Usually, the goal is not exact replication of life, but representation with artistic emphasis and liberties which suit the crafts-person’s intentions.

    Not knowing your people and context…I can respect your humility and wisdom in a team approach to discernment. God only knows how many times I’ve made mistakes like that in ministry! ;-)

  12. justin says:

    i saw this video a while back on one of the design/animation blogs i frequent…

    from an cg/animation standpoint, i think the short is so-so… character animation (literal movement of the dolls and witch doctor) is a little choppy… the texturing/shading (esp. the skin, the table, the metal objects) feels plasticy… overall it feels like a student project (which i think it is)…

    from a content standpoint, it is a story of self-sacrifice and is touching, but i can see how people might not be comfortable w/ the dark/black magic tone of the piece…

  13. justin says:

    ps. i hope my critique of the technical stuff didn’t come off too harshly… for a student piece (probably made with limited render machines, time, resources), it’s great. and the storytelling is good too.

    i’m unjustly comparing it to work i see almost everyday (from companies like motion theory, psyop, pixar and, of course, superfad– where i work (*shameless plug*))

  14. DanW says:

    I don’t see any problem with it. I guess showing it on Easter Sunday morning might be more trouble than it’s worth, but overall, the broad storyline of the gospel is right there. And it does what art is supposed to do: open up an image to shed light on a deeper issue. The atonement is so broad and so deep that no one picture is going to grab it all. This simply sheds light on one aspect of atonement theology – that one laid down his life so that others may be saved from death and evil. If you were going toward a Christus Victor angle, then the video works just fine.

    Although. . .perhaps it would work better as a Good Friday message, since it doesn’t end with the resurrection, which is what Easter is all about.

  15. Kacie says:

    Well, I do see why you were advised not to show it as it is provocative, shows witchcraft… and is quite … well… painful to watch.

    I didn’t enjoy watching it, but I say that in the same way I dislike watching The Passion. They are just… graphic and in some ways nonsensical… something in me rebels against watching something so horrible happen….

    which is really what we are meant to feel when we read about the crucixion, isn’t it? I think this would be great to present to college kids, in particular.

  16. eugenecho says:

    It wasn’t the right context to show it this past Friday but still want to show it w/ some explanation.

    It’s nice to have people to bounce ideas off. Grateful for our staff and their partnership in ministry.

  17. The Chiz says:

    @ Ted Kang-
    As an “early objecter,” I liked the video per se, but I had issue with the humanist undertones running throughout: dolls are all the same, there is no explanation as to why they are on the hooks/ why they are being tormented, and their is no complicity for their plight. If we want to tell a hero story, or a story of sacrifice and rescue, that’s great and I think the short works well. But, if we are telling The Story of Christ and the incarnational rescue, especially on GF or Easter, this does a severe disservice to the way we think about Christ’s humanity AND divinity. This is the same reason that I personally can get spiritual goosebumps from a Sigur Ros concert, and yet be mindful that covering a SR song during a worship set would be innappropriate in most settings. Props to PE for consulting his staff, being wise, AND being an advocate for this particular artist.

  18. Mario says:

    Beautiful, powerful.

  19. Rachael says:

    It would be incorrect to say “I don’t have a problem” with The Passion of the Christ or this clip. But, I do recognize the necessity to watch these types of artistic display. As a Christian, I am not burdened by the graphic images of this animated short, nor am I burdened by the film The Passion of the Christ. Yes, it is very painful to watch (and then imagine what really happened), because the idea that He whom I love more than anything, He who loved us first, He who my entire life is built around, suffered in such a way, is crazy painful. But: the good news is this: that it happened. That He is our Savior. That, as another blog reader mentioned, He took up the cup that our Father bestowed on Him and drank — He IS the sacrificial Lamb. And that is how this short is a parallel to the Gospels.

    (My computer is a bit slow, so this might not actually be the case, but I thought it was VERY interesting that we only saw the torturer’s face after the bright light lit up the room. Interesting to think that, in darkness, we are faceless — we are unknown. And that in light, we become our full selves.)

  20. jpkang says:

    I wouldn’t press the gospel parallels too hard; as it is, the short, while nicely executed, has all kinds of narrative gaps and inconsistencies that suggest the medium > the message. For example, the surrogacy of voodoo dolls is ignored except in the case of the “hero,” who is otherwise indistinguishable from the others.

  21. charlestlee says:

    Loved the film…thanks for sharing it. I would show it in a church context with some explanation. Enjoyed the animation, music, choice of colors, story-telling…

  22. Hang says:

    To be honest, I have goose bumps from listening to the music itself. I really like the puppet illustration. Even thought the film is not based on Biblical characters but it reminds me of Christ died for our sins.

  23. Don Bryant says:

    I am showing it tonight at our Gathering. Just another piece that shows our culture embeds the memory that someone must die for all. It could be Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino or this video. We can’t erase the suspicion that this has to be the case.

  24. James says:

    Eugene (or anyone else),

    I was wondering if you’ve given any thought as to what Satan is.

    I’m sure everyone is familiar with who Satan is, but I haven’t really heard anything about the nature of individuals like Satan, demons, or angels.

    The popular conception is that there are spiritual beings. What does that mean? Are they made of anything?

    Let’s suppose that they are spiritual beings, i.e. that they are immaterial. If so, then how do they interact with the physical world, and more specifically with human beings?

    We can raise a similar question about God, but this seems especially problematic for Satan, since we believe him (her? it?) to be a finite being. In what sense is Satan finite? Is he going to die? Is he spatially limited? To what extent can he influence human actions? Can he possess people?

    Suppose instead that Satan is a physical entity, then where in the physical universe is he located? Is he perceivable via the five senses?

    I don’t mean to be facetious with these questions. This is stuff that I really wonder about. I was wondering if anyone else thought about it too, and if so, if they had any guesses.

  25. Ted Kang says:

    @The Chiz-Some explanation definitely needs to accompany this clip but so do any examples to Biblical truth. Do we not use sections of Hollywood movies to teach biblical truth? (with explanation of course) I’ve seen clips of Batman to How the Grinch stole Christmas during the past year at different churches. I wouldn’t call any of the aforementioned films as parallel to the Bible. Yet parts of it help drive the point.
    I am not saying that Voodoo clip is doctrinally perfect to teach salvation or any other biblical doctrine. But what film or clip is? Even the movie “Jesus” used frequently in churches here and abroad for evangelism need explanation and context. I’m just saying it could have been a good conclusion to message of Good Friday and how we ought to respond to the life and death of Christ, with all the set up and background of course. Just my two cents.

  26. Rose says:

    I would show this at VCC – powerful…

  27. ever_expanding says:

    i love it! i’m sure most christians like to think that they would give their lives for another should the situation arise. the true test, however, is to ‘die to ourselves’ on a daily basis, and to put the needs of others ahead of our own in the small areas of life so that, should the need arise to give our life for another, we will simply do as we’ve always done.

  28. Bill Harper says:

    Thank you. As a pastor sitting in my office on Good Friday, this video is remarkable to think about. Human folk have this painful love affair with violence–and resurrection hardly seems to capture our attention and imagination. “Sebastian” as St. Sebastian? Perhaps. Are we to imitate Christ in “his dying” simply to die? Or to then rise? The light bursting through? Easter sunrise? I just wish we could be done with death, dying, and the perceptions of atoning. That said, this video is emotionally real–and theologically arresting. And yep, it would be hard to show to a congregation . . .

  29. jillifer02 says:

    Wow, that is a pretty chilling video! The graphics are amazing! It emits the emotions of the dolls so well that I feel their pain. The one doll who sacrifices himself to save the others, makes me wonder, what makes him special? How is he able to hurt himself and have such an impact on the abuser? I don’t see this man affected when he hurts any of the other dolls. It seems that this doll woke up, saw the injustice being done and knew just would it would take to stop this man. He struggled but he still took the plunged and made the sacrifice to save the rest.

    Although I’ve grown up knowing the message of Christ and His sacrifice He gave to save us, it still blows me away to think of the amazing selflessness that it takes to do such an act.

  30. tom.fullmer says:

    I thought it was good and shows some nice parallels. I would be psyched if a church I went to did this. Some may be offended but thats the nature of art I guess.

  31. Very powerful video. Amazing and moving story. I really like it, but I agree with the decision not to show it in church. We already have too many images in our culture that depict the evil doer as a person of colour. This film doesn’t help that. It also furthers the association of witchcraft and primitiveness with African/Caribbean cultures. I think it is worth sharing outside of church (as you have done), but only with accompanying discussion on the problematic issues the imagery raises.

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