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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode XIII - It is Divine

Every Friday Chris Robinson improvises some fragments of cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or expelled. 

Let’s forget the Oscars for a second, please (We’ll come back to them next week). We haven’t had much cheer around here for a few weeks (at least since the Ushev interview. Oh right… that’s when I dropped acid and lost my mind for a bit.  That was not cheery at all.).

So… first some context. Since 2000, the Canada Council for the Arts (federal arts grant organization) has been overseeing the prestigious Governor General’s Awards (about the only useful role this British inherited function has these days, though the current Governor General (GG) is apparently quite a nice fella).

Anyway… each year 7 artists are acknowledged for “outstanding career achievement” in Visual and Media Arts. The winners receive a $25,000 cash prize along with a fancy medal (presented on March 1st at the Governor General’s digs in Ottawa).

Among the seven recipients this year – thanks primarily to the efforts of Marco de Blois from the Cinemathèque Québécoise - is Canadian animator, Michèle Cournoyer.

All I can say is that it’s about a damn time that her work was better acknowledged. Yes, her films have screened at festivals for years, but I’ve always felt that she’s never really received the acclaim and respect that her work warrants.

Working in an era and medium that can be notoriously sanitized and conservative, Michèle’s films are defiantly personal, raw and dark. In films like Accordion (2004), A Feather Tale (1992), Soif (2014), Robes of War (2008) and her masterpiece, The Hat (1999), she addresses real problems not Disney manufactured ones. Cournoyer’s characters don’t confront giant volcanic monsters or murderous possessed grandfathers or intolerant cop animals, they live in a world of rape, domestic abuse, alcoholism, war, and volatile relationships. You know, that dark and dirty and distressing stuff of everyday life. Her films are uncompromising, enlightening, provocative, and sometimes even darkly humourous. If the audience feels uncomfortable, that’s a good thing.

So, Bravo Michèle and Bravo Indie animation!

Having said that....

The Governor General’s Awards have been around for 18 years. Canadian animation has long been recognized as among the finest and most innovative in the world. So how is it that Michèle is the first animator to be recognized? Each year these awards are juried by Canadian artists in the visual and media arts. How the fuck have these supposedly informed people ignored animation all this time? We often talk about the general population’s inability to grasp that animation is more than technical wanking and light kids’ fodder… yet it seems that so-called enlightened artists have their heads shoved just as deeply up their asses.

Hopefully, the acknowledgement of Michèle Cournoyer’s outstanding body of work will also trigger a deeper appreciation and respect for animation. 

(In the days leading up to the March 1st awards ceremony, AWN will publish some more in-depth coverage of Cournoyer’s work and debut an enlightening Animation Pimpcast interview with Michèle from the 2015 Ottawa International Animation Festival)

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.