The Hat The Hat

In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.

This week’s subject is Canadian animator Michèle Cournoyer, the first animator to win Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

In a phrase: Deeply personal and raw, Cournoyer’s metamorphic black and white films can make viewers uncomfortable, taking them to places they know but rarely want to acknowledge.

Where to start: The Hat (1999). An exotic dancer performs in front of shapeless figures with dark hats while remembering being abused as a child. Superbly edited, there are no cuts in the film, only metamorphoses of memories, objects, and characters that dart and dance inside a hell our minds can’t fully fathom.

What to watch next: Soif  (2014). A danse macabre with a bottle, Soif depicts a woman’s relationship with that old demon alcohol. She shifts and stumbles through a life soaked in booze until it finally threatens to drown her.

Other key works: An Artist (1994), Accordion (2004), Robes of War (2008)

Influences: Jacques Drouin, Pierre Hébert, Pablo Picasso.

Says: “Inspiration begins with a physical vision that becomes an obsession, and then a film subject. I use my brush to create the initial storyboard that depicts the subject of the film. There is a kind of back-and-forth between writing, animation, and editing. It all happens a little at the same time.”

Currently working on: A new short film about death and love.

Know Your Indie Filmmakers


Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson is a writer and Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). Robinson has authored thirteen books including Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation (2006), Ballad of a Thin Man: In Search of Ryan Larkin (2008), and Japanese Animation: Time Out of Mind (2010). He also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning animation short, Lipsett Diaries.