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The Sandman

Pinpointing that line where adult and children’s entertainment overlap is difficult but when done successfully, it provides numerous benefits. Beyond appealing to both demographics and the obvious monetary dividends, it allows artists to push themselves and technology further. The essential ingredient is a great story. Director Natalia Hermedia may be known for psychological dramas like Transient Passengers and Gamerger (about feral children who communicate without language) but in The Sandman she has created a message with brings danger and whimsy. Using the dreamworld which everyone shares, The Sandman unifies everyone in the potential benevolent or malevolent impact of this alternate reality. An Official Selection in festivals around the world, The Sandman won Best Animated Short at the Hollywood International Moving Image Awards (2018) and was nominated in the “Best International Film” category at the Underground Cinema Short Film Awards in Ireland (2018). The film’s small cast includes Kelly Galindo (of the FX television series Sons of Anarchy), Jose Herrera, Caleb Jenkins, and Ben Jannasch (as the voice of the Sandman), proving that it’s the size of the talent in the cast rather than the size of the cast which transfixes the viewer.

Set in 1960’s France, The Sandman travels around a small town in the south of France to aid those who need help falling asleep. When he encounters a small girl who is afraid to go to sleep, he sprinkles some of his fairy dust on her to help but doesn’t stop there. He investigates and finds out that she fears that a monster is hiding in her closet. Utilizing some magic of his own, he captures the beast and traps it in a special container. As he continues his appointed rounds, he finds the railway track operator who accidently gets fairy dust in his eyes and nods off. The nail-biting which ensues requires some ingenuity on the Sandman’s part to avoid a cataclysmic accident. The Sandman is faced with the obstacle of contradicting his life purpose in order to wake up the operator just as two trains are approaching in opposite directions.

As the film’s production designer Alberto Achar needed to approach the film with a fair amount of imagination. Because the film combines animation (the Sandman character is entirely animated) and live action, Achar designed the rooms of the family’s apartment to be positioned along a dolly track to allow the camera to follow the Sandman as he passed through the walls from room to room. The aesthetics of the home were carefully planned as well. Achar communicates, “There was a dolly track take that would pass from one room to the next, Wes Anderson style, so we built the apartment without a fourth wall. The Sandman is a fantasy and I wanted to make sure that the magical creature fit in this world so the entire color palette was conceived in a heightened realist fashion. I used Wes Anderson’s and Tim Burton’s work as reference, thus giving the sets a ‘fairy-tale’ look. Natalia [Hermida, director/writer] expressed concern that if our sets are too realistic, that the actual Sandman creature would look out of place, so she asked me to bring up the color tones a little bit more: less pastel and more saturated. Therefore, the sets had popping cold colors to bring the story out of reality a little bit.” The train control room Alberto designed similarly combined early twentieth century authentic train control machinery bathed in an explosion of colors.

This film possesses one of the most desirable traits of any piece of art; the absence of a need to be culturally translated. The story is as relevant in New York as in New Zealand or New Delhi. The Sandman has been accepted as an Official Selection at multiple film festivals around the world including the Austin Film Festival, the Bristol Independent Film Festival (UK), as well as festivals in Portugal, Switzerland, Korea, and Jamaica. As the film contains no dialogue, the visual presentation offered by its director, cinematographer, and production designer, literally is the language of this borderless film.

Written by Kelly King

The Sandman Reviewed by JaamZIN on 1:27:00 PM Rating: 5
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