Polish filmmaker Dorota Kobiela always had a passion for the artist Vincent van Gogh. Her devotion to him led her to create the first fully painted animated feature film, Loving Vincent, which is now nominated for Best Animated Film at the 2018 Oscars.

The film began as a short film project in 2008 but, with the help of her husband Hugh Welchman, Kobiela was able to create a feature-length film. “I was really searching for the way to combine my two passions for painting and for film, and it was really exciting for me to be able to tell this story of an artist by using his art,” Kobiela told uInterview exclusively. “I think it started with the concept of making a film by using paintings that really move in front of your eyes. It was quite immediate that it would be about Vincent because he is really close to me. I read his letters when I was 15 and I feel that his paintings are very private and show his world.”

Kobiela met Welchman around the same time she was working on her short film, and it was his suggestion to create a feature-length film. “He was kind of looking over my shoulder and he said, ‘this is incredible, it’s just so different, and let’s just challenge it, make it bigger.’ And so at first, I wasn’t very sure about that, because I wasn’t sure I would be able to paint it myself. But then we started really testing and developing it and searching for options,” she explained. Loving Vincent contains roughly 65,000 frames painted in the style of van Gogh by Kobiela and a team of 125 painters. “It took us three or four years to gather a budget and actually start the production. No one really wanted to make this film at the beginning ’cause it sounds so strange,” she said.

As for why she chose van Gogh, Kobiela felt that he deserved a film about his life. “I really wanted to convey his passion and his love for the world around him, as he couldn’t really express in any other way than painting. It’s my love letter to him I suppose,” she said. “I think I kind of felt that sorry that he never got to see how much his dream came true, because he really wanted to share with people… And he actually managed that and did it truly beautifully, so I just wish that he could see it. And I think there’s this kind of sentiment and melancholy that I wanted people to leave the cinema with.”

Loving Vincent premiered at the 2017 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. It won Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 30th European Film Awards in Berlin, and is also nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at this year’s 90th Academy AwardsJimmy Kimmel hosts the award show on Sunday, March 4.

Full interview transcript below:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for ‘Loving Vincent?’

A: I was really searching for the way to combine my two passions for painting and for film, and it was really exciting for me to be able. I wanted to help the story of an artist by using his arts, his paintings, to make the paintings tell his story. I think it started with the concept of making a film by using paintings to be alive, really move in front of your eyes. It was quite close, immediate, that is was going to be about Vincent because he was really close to me. I read his letters when I was 15, and I just felt that his paintings are really very private and showing his world, he really painted what was surrounding him, his life and his normal daily life. So that’s a perfect subject and that was the beginning.

Q: How did this project become a film?

A: The process of turning in feature was very much a fault of my husband because I met him when I was working on it as a short film, and he was actually working on his other film. And I went to work with him a while and he was kind of looking again over my shoulder on my short film and he said, “this is incredible, it’s just do different, and let’s just challenge it, let’s just make it bigger.” First my reactions was I wasn’t very sure about that, but because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to paint it myself, and then we started to really testing and developing it and searching for options, and we thought “okay, we’re gonna hire painters,” and that’s how it all started. But it was very from actually really starting a production, took us I think three or four years together to actually start the production. No one really wanted to make this film at the beginning because it sounds so strange.

Q: What do you want people to know about Van Gogh?

A: I really wanted to convey his passion, his love for the world and the people around him, as he couldn’t really express in any other way than painting. It’s my love letter to him, I suppose, so I think I kind of felt sorry that he never got to see how much his dream came true. Because he really wanted to share with people, he said, “I would like to show what this is,” nobody has in his heart, and he actually managed that, and he did it truly beautifully. I just wish that he could see it, and I think there’s this kind of sentiment and melancholy that I also wanted people to come to leave the cinema with.

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