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The NFB congratulates Michèle Cournoyer, recipient of a 2017 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts


February 15, 2017 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) wishes to congratulate animation filmmaker Michèle Cournoyer, who has received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in recognition of her exceptional career. She and the other winners of this year’s award will each receive a medallion and a cash prize of $25,000.

Michèle Cournoyer is a leading figure in animation in Quebec and Canada. Her powerful body of work, created primarily in black and white, is grounded in the theme of metamorphosis and skillfully tackles difficult topics with an extraordinary sense of humour and tragedy. She was born in Saint-Joseph-de-Sorel, Quebec, in 1943 and studied piano, graphic arts, photography and film animation. In the 1970s, she made several independent shorts, including experimental collage films. As a set designer, art director, costume designer and screenwriter, she also collaborated on a number of Quebec films, including Gilles Carle’s La mort d’un bûcheron (1973) and Mireille Dansereau’s L’arrache-cœur (1979).

In 1989, she won the ninth Cinéaste recherché(e) competition organized by the NFB French Program’s Animation Studio. The five films she subsequently made there garnered some 30 international awards. The first, 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, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week. The film marks her departure from rotoscoping and split-screen shots in favour of ink-on-paper gesture drawings. Accordion (2004), 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. Cournoyer left the NFB in 2009 but her next 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, Banff, Chicago, Dresden, Hiroshima, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vienna and Zagreb. The Hat and Robes of War both won the Jutra Award for best animated short.

Watch her interview in Making Movie History: A Portrait in 61 Parts.

The winners of the 2017 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts will participate in a conversation with the public on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. An exhibition devoted to their work will be held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery from April 8 to September 4, 2017, following the vernissage on April 7.


Associated Links

Festival de Cannes

Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts

National Gallery of Canada

Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    The NFB is Canada’s public producer and distributor of award-winning documentaries and auteur animation, working with talented creators across the country. The NFB is taking action to combat systemic racism and become a more open and diverse organization, while working to strengthen Indigenous-led production and gender equity in film. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including 12 Oscars. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.