Blind Vaysha, or Vaysha, l’aveugle as is the French title, is Bulgarian animation director Theodore Ushev‘s sixteenth film and first ever nominated for an Oscar. Based on a philosophical short story of the same name by Ushev’s friend, Georgi Gospodinov, Blind Vaysha centers around a blind woman who can’t see the present, but instead sees both the past and the future.
Vaysha has one green eye and one brown eye, one of which only sees the past and the other of which only sees the future. Unable to fully experience the present, Vaysha tries to find someone who can help her focus her two sights into one current vision. With little success, she even contemplates removing one of her eyes; but which one should go? Ushev said, in interview, “I wanted to personalize this anxiety of being pressed between the past and the future…” It’s a relatable feeling, considering our nostalgic generation and the tension of the current political climate.
Using the linocut style, a printmaking variant of woodcut that he has specialized in since age 12, Ushev animated the entire short himself, creating somewhere between 12k-13k drawings. With a unique algorithm at hand, Ushev completed Blind Vaysha in a record six months.
“You don’t animate characters – you animate the colors,” Ushev said. After separately animating each color and digitally printing, his algorithm superimposed the layers, creating a distinct, hand-printed look. As it kept the colors moving constantly, the algorithm made each frame a unique work of art. The style feels and looks like classic European folk tales, achieving an aesthetic that is both familiar and unusual. In cooperation with what could be considered a dark theme for an animated film, the short mirrors much of the anxiety we feel in today’s world and grants the audience a chance to really interpret the film themselves with a sort of interactive ending.
While a member of the National Film Board of Canada, rumors are floating that with this Oscar nod, studios like Disney/Pixar might make Ushev some tempting offers. But Ushev isn’t interested: “[If] they did offer me a job, it would be absolutely no. Thanks to the National Film Board of Canada, I’m the happiest and freest artist in the meat factory of today’s world.”
The short may seem unusual to an audience familiar with the realistic CGI of Pixar or the smooth features of Disney, but it is a beautiful film entirely worthy of recognition. We, as an audience and as a society, need a diverse palate of films. There is a large and beautiful animated world outside of the big studios. While the ever-popular CGI techniques are improving, there are so many gorgeous styles and techniques we could also use to create entertaining and thought-provoking animation. Blind Vaysha is an excellent example of animation art outside the CGI box.
Do you think the abstract & unusual Blind Vaysha will win at the Oscars?
Interview Sources: IndieWire and Montreal Gazette
Edited by: Morgan Stradling