Written and directed by Caroline Robert.
In collaboration with Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit, Mathieu Charbonneau and Vincent Morisset.
Performed by Sophie Shields-Rivard
Created by the studio AATOAA
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada
“Brainstream reminds us that human connection […] is key to finding some inner harmony.”
— Chris Robinson, Cartoon Brew
“Robert’s writing perfectly captures the wandering tendencies of our brains”
— Creative Review
“One of the deepest, most personal and emotionally honest pieces of digital art I’ve seen in ages.”
— James Paterson (@presstube)
“Robert creates a vibrant, teeming visual world that tells a moving, sensory-laden and timely story featuring an authentic anti-heroine.”
You’re inside the head of D., a young girl who’s livestreaming her brain activity during a new kind of treatment session. Online, along with other participants, you massage her brain, experiencing the free flow of her thoughts, emotions and obsessions. Now, she’s telling you about her weekend. Earlier, her anxiety played some catchy beats that still lurk in one corner of her mind—like an earworm that won’t let go. Keep massaging. It’s doing her some good. In exchange, she’s giving you a guided tour of what’s going on inside her head, empowered by your gestures and stimulating presence. D. opens up as her mind wanders—perhaps a little bit like your own mind. Brainstream is an interactive animated film that explores, with sensitivity and humour, the mysteries of brain activity and the unpredictable trajectory of our thoughts.
What if all the energy we spent on our screens every day could be turned into something useful? In Brainstream, the simple act of swiping a finger or moving a cursor on a screen has a concrete and positive effect on D.
Our movements, combined with those of other participants, generate powerful energy, which she experiences in real time as flowing serotonin—the happiness hormone. We massage D.’s brain, relaxing her neurons and helping her open up new cognitive pathways.
Through a nuanced performance by Sophie Shields-Rivard (Julianne Côté in French), D. comes across as authentic and appealing, and we are immediately drawn to her. A close, intimate relationship and a feeling of solidarity forms between participants and D., as we awaken her memories, see how she reacts, and go down forgotten or unexplored paths.
We experience D.’s thoughts visually through animation, capturing a constant and continuously changing electric flow. These images are like living matter that reacts in real time to our touch. The animated sequences live and change organically: they are drawn towards us, pushed away, and unfold through our gestures, thanks to Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit’s coding. They come one after another, in a fluid and unpredictable fashion, sometimes taking the soothing wave of her thoughts forming, or transforming into a specific image when a memory arises—thereby representing the activity of the brain in all its richness and complexity.
Mathieu Charbonneau’s delicate sound design heightens this sense of intimacy. The unadorned and disembodied voice has a captivating effect and fosters a sense of closeness. Each memory bubble offers a sensory immersion, much like an ASMR experience. The music supports the unpredictable nature of the experience while also recurring in some thoughts—reinforcing the sense of concrete movement through the brain’s different zones.
Brainstream takes its participants’ own brain time into account. Before starting, they are given a choice between a 5-minute or 20-minute experience (19 minutes in French).
You’re inside the head of D., a young girl who’s livestreaming her brain activity during a new kind of treatment session. Online, along with other participants, you massage her brain, experiencing the free flow of her thoughts, emotions and obsessions. Now, she’s telling you about her weekend. Earlier, her anxiety played some catchy beats that still lurk in one corner of her mind—like an earworm that won’t let go. Keep massaging. It’s doing her some good. In exchange, she’s giving you a guided tour of what’s going on inside her head, empowered by your gestures and stimulating presence. D. opens up as her mind wanders—perhaps a little bit like your own mind.
Brainstream is an interactive film written and directed by Caroline Robert of the renowned creative studio AATOAA. Marrying animation with digital creativity, the film was very deliberately made for a broad, general audience. Caroline brings her unique sensibility to a teeming visual world, telling a moving, sensory-laden and timely story featuring an authentic anti-heroine whose voice will resonate with audiences for a long time. Employing humour to explore and normalize anxiety and emotions, Caroline is drawn to the fascinating workings of the brain—its plasticity and its ability to continually transform itself through new learning. With Brainstream, she gives participants the satisfaction of taking part in a gratifying and meaningful experience simply by using their sense of touch.
Brainstream is an interactive animated film in which a young girl is livestreaming her thoughts during a new kind of treatment session. The piece explores, with sensitivity and humour, the fascinating workings of our brain.
Created by the studio AATOAA
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada
Directed and Animated by
Caroline Robert (AATOAA)
Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit (AATOAA)
Music, Sound Design and Audio Supervision
Production Manager and Consultant to the Director
Vincent Morisset (AATOAA)
Voice of D. and Little Sister
Voice of the Obsessions
Sound Mix Consultant
Bernard Gariépy Strobl
Assistant Sound Designer – English Monologue
Nataq Huault (Bande à part)
Editor – Trailer
NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA
Head of Production
Senior Production Coordinators
Senior Production Coordinator – Administration
Production Coordinators – Administration
Evelyne Cortes Oquendo
Interactive Media Coordinator
Technical Coordinator (post-production)
Project Manager, Digital Production
Marketing Coordinator, Audiovisual & Digital
Social Media Strategists
Emilie Nguyen Ngoc
“Les gens qui m’aiment”, Jimmy Hunt (2020)
with the kind collaboration of Bravo Musique
Thank you for your outside eye and precious advice,
my nephew, Ravenne Portail
Thank you for inspiring me,
all the young girls who agreed to answer my questions,
all the teenagers in my life and their parents.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,
my sisters, Fanny Morel and Sophie Robert
my nephew and niece, Louis and Sybille Morel
my parents, Chantal and Gérard Robert
my grandparents, Fernande and Aimé Robert
In memory of my grandmother Maïck (Yvonne Zulemanian), who loved classic French songs.
And in memory of my uncle Patou (Patrick Thomas), who loved the Rolling Stones.
Thank you to my drawing club, La Mine:
Joël Vaudreuil, Isabelle Brouillette, Stéphane Lafleur, François Turcotte, Caroline Lavergne, Maxime Veilleux, Catherine Leduc and Matthieu Beaumont
And thank you to my talented and inspiring friends of all ages and to the generous people around me, who, whether consciously or not, helped make this film a reality.
Laurence Simard-Émond, Jules, Guillaume, Renaud, Paul and Antoine Avril
Gabriel Luciani and Pascal Brouard
Anne, Alice and Marc-André Chaput
Carole De Haro
Sophie Bisson, Olive and Thibaut Duverneix
Miryam Bouchard, Alice and PM Fortin
Daniel Sanche and Sarah Fortin
Chloé B. Fortin
Thea Metcalfe, Miro and Sean Michaels
Claudette Raymond, Marie-Ève, Olivier, Jérémie, Antoine and Paul Morisset
Daniel and Martine Moussy
Nathalie Loignon, Jeanne, Henri, Laure and Mathieu Pellerin
Raphaëlle Nadeau and Madeleine Péloquin
Isabelle de Bie, Laurent, Pierre and Yves Renaud
Gustave, Laurier, Catherine D’Amour and Nicolas S. Roy
Mélanie Chabot, Victor and Nicolas Stämpfli
Sophie Cadieux, Oscar and Mani Soleymanlou
Iris, Jessica and Brice Thomas
Josiane La Pouette Thomas
Sophie Galipeau, Eli, Sam and Dominic Turmel