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News 01 Feb 17

Bulgarian Film Hits Revive Cherished Animation Traditions

With Theo Ushev’s ‘Blind Vaysha’ nominated for the 2017 Oscars and other Bulgarian short films shortlisted for prestigious festivals, there are hopes for a renewal of the ‘golden age’ of animation in the country.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The character from the 'Golden Apple' animation series project. Photo:goldenappleseries.com

The news that ‘Blind Vaysha, created by the Bulgarian-born Canadian director Theo Ushev, was nominated for this year’s Oscar for the best short animated film, has caused excitement on the Bulgarian cultural scene.

Ushev’s film, which is based on a story by award-winning Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov, will compete with four other short animations, including Google’s ‘Pearl’ and Pixar’s ‘Piper’, at the 89th Academy Awards.

“We overcame Disney - something that is unheard of, like Ludogorets [Bulgaria’s top football team] beating Barcelona at the Nou Camp,” Ushev told Bulgarian National Television following the announcement of his nomination.

Although Ushev refers to himself as a Canadian director and his film is supported by the National Film Board of Canada, his success is considered a subject of national pride in Bulgaria.

‘Blind Vaysha’ has revived memories of the ‘golden age’ of Bulgarian animation, the period between the 1960s and the 1990s when Bulgarian animated films were often shown at the world’s top film festivals and won prestigious awards such as the Palme d’Or in 1996.

But in the 1990s, the industry witnessed a sharp decline with significantly fewer films being produced or gaining international recognition.

Over the past few years, however, increasing numbers of young artists and directors have attracted serious attention at home and internationally, showing clear signs that Bulgaria’s animation tradition has woken up from its long sleep.

Balkan Insight has selected some of the best works:

Blind Vaysha

 
 

The animated short tells the extraordinary story of Vaysha – a girl who sees the past with her left eye and the future with her right, which makes it impossible for her to live in the present. Screened for the first time at the Berlinale in 2016, the Oscar-nominated film is not only based on a story by a Bulgarian writer, but incorporates the music of Bulgarian musician and composer Kottarashky.

20 Kicks

First screened in Cannes in 2016, the experimental short ‘20 Kicks by Dimiter Dimitrov has already toured 30 countries. Dimitrov is famous for making his projects only with a smartphone. In 2014, his first experimental project, ‘The Day of the Bleeding Gums’won the Best Animation Award at the Hollywood Weekly Festival in Los Angeles in 2014. Dimitrov’s latest film ‘20 Kicks’ tells the dystopian story of a world in which in which ''the exchange system is slaps and punches'', and which focuses on questions such about the price people pay for small pleasures in life and the sacrifices they make while trying to find happiness.

Father

The animated documentary ‘Father, based on five true stories, is the first big international success from the Bulgarian animation production company Compote Collective. Released in co-production with Bonobostudio (Croatia) and Eyecatch Productions (Germany), it has been screened at more than 100 festivals (including Annecy, Clermont Ferrand, Stuttgart, London and Bradford) and awarded 26 times, including prizes at DOK Leipzig, Chicago and Anim'est.

According to its authors, it ''turns reality upside down'' in order to recreate a dialogue that never happened – one between a child and a father.

The Golden Apple


The creators of ‘The Golden Apple’ describe it as is "a fantasy animated series, based on Eastern European mythology, legends and folklore".

Financed via crowdfunding, the project has brought together young but experienced animation and film professionals from Bulgaria, Italy, the US, Cyprus, Ireland and other countries.

While the authors from the Bulgarian animation studio Zmei are still raising funds to start working on the full series in 2017, it had a strong debut at the Cartoon Forum in Toulouse in France, and its first animated short raised 230 per cent of its target sum on Kickstarter.

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