Blind Vaysha is an allegorical animated short from Theodore Ushev, and it is an absolute triumph. Narrated by Caroline Dhavernas, the film is an adaptation of a 2001 short story by Georgi Gospodinov about a young girl who is born with a peculiar affliction: her left eye sees only the past and her right eye sees only the future. The film sports an aesthetically apt animation style which not only assists in the telling of Vaysha’s story, but also parallels her condition. Every frame of the film contains its central theme: the conflict between the past and the future.
Vaysha’s condition is doted over by her mother and the town doctors, but no manner of medicine or magic can cure her vision. This affects Vaysha throughout her life, and we always see her world through a split screen. Looking at her mother, Vaysha simultaneously sees both a young, fresh-faced girl and an old crone. When Vaysha grows into a gorgeous young woman, her suitors simultaneously appear as both scamps and codgers. In this state, happiness is impossible for Vaysha. She is always seeing the doom of the future or lamenting the undeveloped past.
As a parable, the story is commendable. The aesthetic makes it masterful. Ushev has worked in linocuts for years. This is a style of printing which requires one to carve reliefs into pieces of linoleum and then uses these relief carvings to apply color. It is a similar style to woodblock prints like the famous The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. Each individual color is applied in a single layer, and it takes multiple layers to produce a single image. Here, Ushev uses the same layering technique, except each layer was drawn on his Wacom Cintiq animation tablet.
The product of his efforts is an animation style which weds an ancient technique with a modern means of producing it. Every frame of Blind Vaysha is quite literally the marriage of the ancient past and the potentialities of the future. Vaysha herself may not reconcile her disparate viewpoints, but her story inherently does so by showing us that the past and future can comingle to create a vibrant story in the present.
Screens (as part of Canada’s Top Ten Shorts Programme 1):
Saturday, January 14, 3:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased online at tiff.net
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage.