Biopics are a dime a dozen come award season, but Loving Vincent, about iconic Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, stands apart from the field as the world’s first-ever fully painted full-length movie. That ingenuity has been rewarded with a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film at the upcoming Academy Awards, taking place in Los Angeles on March 4.
“This all started in an attic just before my 30th birthday, when I felt lost about what I was doing with my life. It’s unbelievable that it has led to this,” said Dorota Kobiela, who co-directed the film with her husband, Hugh Welchman, in a statement. “Our dreams were sustained by Vincent, so I wish he was here so I could thank him too!”
In a category known for featuring children’s films, Loving Vincent is comparatively gritty fare, telling the dark story of the artist’s final days. Though Van Gogh is thought to have committed suicide, the movie explores the possibility that he might actually have been murdered.
As competition, Loving Vincent faces more mainstream fare, including the expected winner, Pixar’s Coco; The Boss Baby from DreamWorks Animation; and Ferdinand, featuring the vocal talents of John Cena and Kate McKinnon. Rounding out the category is The Breadwinners, from Cartoon Salon, which tells the story of a girl living under the Taliban in Afghanistan who dresses as a boy to work to support her family.
Starring Robert Gulaczyk as Van Gogh, with supporting turns from Douglas Booth, Chris O’Dowd, and Saoirse Ronan, Loving Vincent was first shot as a live-action film. An army of 125 artists then converted the picture, frame by frame, into 65,000 oil paintings, painstakingly repainting each canvas an average of 76 times to capture the action as it unfolded.
“This year I am one of two female directors nominated in this category, which until now had only four women nominees out of all the 72 directors nominated. Maybe this is the year that we can start to change this imbalance,” Kobiela said. “Most of all I am proud of my painters (over 60 percent of whom were women), my actors and my crew. They believed in an undertaking that many considered crazy—to paint an entire film in oil-paints on canvas by hand.”
Watch the film’s crew react to their Oscar nomination:
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