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After a Kidnapping, a Lifetime of Haunted Regret

Nov 08, 2019 | 831 videos
Video by Valerie Barnhart

“I can’t ignore the girl in the hallway,” Jamie DeWolf says. “It’s hard to—I see her every day. She has a gap-toothed smile, messy brown hair, and a doll that dangles from its only arm. She always wants to come inside … but I say, ‘Maybe another time. Why don’t you run along now?’”

DeWolf would live to regret these words. In Valerie Barnhart’s animated short film The Girl in the Hallway, DeWolf reveals the harrowing fate of the 7-year-old girl who once lived in his apartment complex in Vallejo, California. Her name was Xiana Fairchild, and in December 1999, she was abducted and murdered. To this day, DeWolf feels crippling guilt about the consequences of his silence and inaction.

Barnhart, who taught herself how to animate in the process of making this film, said she was moved by DeWolf’s story when she first encountered it on the podcast Snap Judgment. The film’s haunting visuals—rendered with pastel, charcoal, conté, and graphite—carry the nightmarish weight of DeWolf’s remorse.

“I would like people to reflect on what they would do in Jamie’s circumstance,” Barnhart told me. “If you would have done what Jamie did, maybe next time you won’t sit by.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

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