The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga (Jessica Oreck, 2014): USA/Ukraine/Russia/Poland

Reviewed by Dane Angus. Viewed in Hollywood at the AFI Fest 2014.


The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga, a film by Jessica Oreck that tells an interesting folklore tale of the witch Baba Yaga while also tying in the background and history of Eastern Europe and nature connects with the lives it surrounds. It is a combination of animation and documentary. It contains interesting drawings and images of the tale of the witch Baba Yaga and several city, people, nature, and experimental shots.

From the start of this film, which began with an extra 10 minute video, I was not a happy camper. The theater showed an extra clip before the actual film that was very strange and gave most of the people in the audience a headache. It was a compilation of weird experimental shots combined with video of a fat, asian man playing with his long ponytail. It was disturbing as much as it was painful. So that short certainly put the entire audience in an abnormal mood to start The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga.

The actual film was put together in a strange way that seemed dangerously discontinuous. This can work for many movies, it just did not go with the flow of this film in my opinion. The animation and story tale that would come on every 20 min. was what I began to look forward to as the other random scenes of Eastern Europe and strange subjects began to quickly lose my attention and interest. I tried my best to follow along with the actual subtitles story that was attempted to be told but it was all a bit confusing and caused for less enjoyment as a viewer. I feel that the movie could have been better edited or put together somehow and it would have been much more capturing and entertaining.

Overall, I was not a fan of this film. I did admire some of the cool shots in Europe and a few unique styles of camera angle, but I would say this movie was more of a pain than an enjoyment. I could feel the vibe in the audience as well that the viewers did not really know how to react to the film and were not exactly sure what they were watching at times just as I did. It was a project that lacked the power to really deliver the message it wanted to. It was not fun and not artistic enough to capture me even for just 72 minutes. And to have no claps at the end of a film is always an awkward moment, which is what occurred after The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga was played.

I would say to try everything once, but perhaps skip past this one if you want to watch a movie that will actually be worth while!


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