“Slaves” is a short animated documentary by David Aronowitsch and Hanna Heilborn, the duo that created 2002’s “Gömd,” another short animated doc based in interviews with young children in desperate situations. Their first project dealt with a refugee child living in Sweden. Their second, “Slaves,” tells the story of two Sudanese boys, a nine-year-old named Abuk and a fifteen-year-old named Machiek who were both taken as slaves and forced to work for the militia in power. The film recreates an interview between the two boys, a doctor hoping to learn more about their lives, and an interpreter. Audio from the interview is played over the animation, allowing the former slaves to tell their own stories.
The boys’ stories are interesting, even inspiring, but the style in which they are told is not. The animation style isn’t very captivating and results in loss of connectivity between the viewer and the film’s subjects. Being able to see the faces of these freed slaves would have had a much stronger impact. Maybe the interview wasn’t filmed. But while the idea of an animated documentary is intriguing, films like “Chicago 10” (2007) and “Waltz with Bashir” (2008) both employ the style very well, it doesn’t’ really work for “Slaves.” During the segments which take place in Sudan, the ones depicting the boys’ lives in slavery, the animation does work. It works more partially because they styles switch up, the colors are brighter and the editing is lively.
Then the film cuts back to the drawn-out and nearly emotionless interview. “Slaves” would have benefitted by sticking more towards the style of the flashbacks and moving away from the tiresome style of the interview segments.