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Zoon by Jonatan Schwenk: Interview

The first female animation director to win the Quebec’s highest prize for cinema.

Quebec animation filmmaker and frequent National Film Board of Canada  creative collaborator Michèle Cournoyer won the 2017 Prix Albert-Tessier—making her the first female animation filmmaker to receive this honour reserved for the highest honour in cineman.

Michèle Cournoyer  (b. 1943,Saint-Joseph-de-Sorel, Quebec) frequently explores the theme of metamorphosis and skillfully tackles difficult topics with an extraordinary sense of humour and tragedy in her black-and-white work.  

The NFB is delighted to see this prestigious prize awarded to a female animation filmmaker, a first in the history of the award. The award underlines the important role of animation in Quebec cinema and the contribution of Michèle Cournoyer as an artist whose ability to powerfully and eloquently express a woman’s point of view on personal subjects has served as a model for young women directors. This year, the Cinéaste recherché(e) competition, through which Michèle began her animation career at the NFB, is open to women only, in order to increase their numbers in the world of animation -  Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson.

 

In 1989, Cournoyer won the ninth Cinéaste recherché(e) competition, organized by the NFB French Program’s Animation Studio. Her first film,  A Feather Tale (1992), depicts a cruel game in which love is stripped of its golden glow. Using the rotoscoping technique, she followed up with An Artist (1994), which tells the story of a young girl who is totally devoted to music.

The Hat (1999), an unflinching look at incest,  (ink-on-paper gesture drawings) was screened at the Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week. Accordion (2004) was presented in competition at the Cannes Festival, deals with romantic relationships in the era of technological mediation.

With Robes of War (2008), Cournoyer again explores a timely topic—female suicide bombers—from a decidedly feminine standpoint. Her film Soif (2014), which deals with alcoholism, was produced by Unité centrale and co-produced by the NFB. 

Cournoyer’s films have garnered awards at major film festivals around the world: Annecy, Chicago, Dresden, Hiroshima, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vienna and Zagreb. The Hat and Robes of War both won the Jutra Award for best animated short.

She also received a 2017 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Watch an excerpt below: