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The Horror of War, Captured in a Hand-Drawn Cartoon

Feb 19, 2015 | 831 videos
Video by Danny Madden

I've never seen a short film quite like Confusion Through Sand, an animation by Danny Madden and Ornana Films. It's a fierce, unflinching story about a young soldier, scared and alone, who fights to survive an ambush in a hostile war zone. Madden began the project in 2011, according to the Washington Post, after raising $30,000 on Kickstarter. The film premiered at South by Southwest two years later. This past January, it also aired on PBS.

Each one of the film's 6,500 frames were drawn by hand on recycled paper, which was then backlit to create the visual impression of a sandstorm. Confusion Through Sand isn't entirely impressionistic, but scenes blend and fuse into one another, suggesting a dreamy unease. The animation weaves through space, mimicking camera movement in extreme, unreal ways. That mimicry pairs well with Madden's manipulations of perspective and proportion, which all together create incredible tension.

"This film has a very kinetic camera," Madden explained in a fascinating behind-the-scenes short. "There are a lot of perspective shifts and radical camera moves." 

Ornana's next project, All Your Favorite Shows!, will debut at South by Southwest in March. If you'd like to follow the studio and Madden's work, visit their Facebook page.

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Author: Chris Heller

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.