Be Afraid of Humanity in The Animation Workshop’s Short ‘The Backwater Gospel’
THE BACKWATER GOSPEL is really a mature and enjoyable piece of animation that will leave you wanting for more, but also thinking about the essence of humanity itself.
Our beliefs are often a fundamental pillar of our lives. They can make us or they can break us; they’re our strongest weapon or our weakness. It is our beliefs that make us human while also enabling us to unleash our greatest sins into the world. That’s the story of THE BACKWATER GOSPEL, a short movie produced by a group of students at The Animation Workshop to make us think about ourselves and our humanity. It’s a simple story; one about about beliefs, fears and what can happen when humanity decides to become judge, jury and executioner in the name of their God.
Backwater is a small town in the desert. Most of his inhabitants are God fearing men and women who assist the church and listen to the Minister’s somewhat controversial views of how humanity should behave to avoid the flaming pits of hell. The townsfolk generally live in fear and obediently follow the Minister and his puritan ways blindly… all but a single person: a musical Tramp. The Tramp is the only man who doesn’t fear the Minister and constantly mocks the Minister and defies him, thus incurring his wrath.
Even so, everything is at peace in the town until a personification of death (an Undertaker) arrives to do what he does best: reap souls. His promise to the townspeople is that each time he comes to town someone at Backwater will die. Naturally, everyone is afraid and await to see which unlucky bastard will be chosen next. As time passes by the fearful residents notice that no one is dying. Under these circumstances the Minister decides that it’s the perfect opportunity to “purify” his community and thus he gathers all the nervous townspeople and convinces them that it is time to choose someone to die and that someone is the sinful Tramp.
Together the community murders the Tramp hoping to make the Undertaker go away, only the Undertaker does not take the Tramp away. Afraid and confused the fear and paranoia hidden within the townspeople finally erupts in a spectacle of carnage in which they feverishly kill one another under the rain. Once the sun comes up the Undertaker stands up and reveals that he has, in fact, come for every single soul in Backwater.
The Backwater Gospel is a work of animation designed to make you think as much as it strives to entertain with the dark and blocky visuals it offers (especially the scenes of mindless carnage). It’s a story that doesn’t promote or condemn religion, but instead uses it to tell a mix two simple ideas: the first is about fear and how it can be used and how it can consume us if we let it rule our lives, ruining us and reducing as to savage beasts. The second one is about authority, pride and mockery and how those who have power can often abuse it for their own gain. As the Minister discovers, though, fear is often something that – once unleashed – cannot be easily controlled.