FREAKS OF NURTURE
| 6 min 28 s
Selections and Awards
A stop-motion film about a mother-daughter relationship bursting at the seams with babies, poodles and flying spaghetti.
Freaks of Nurture is an animated short about a neurotic mother-daughter relationship inspired by the filmmaker’s own unorthodox upbringing with her single-parent mom, who is also a foster parent and dog breeder. Self-deprecating and bursting with energy, the film reveals that no matter how grown-up we think we are, we never quite stop craving the love and support of a parent.
Freaks of Nurture is an animated short about a neurotic mother-daughter relationship inspired by the filmmaker’s own unorthodox upbringing with her single-parent mom, who is also a foster parent and dog breeder. Playful and self-deprecating, the film reveals much about what it means to grow up, become independent, but still crave the love and support of a parent.
Up against a tight deadline and desperate to vent, a young filmmaker calls her mother (voiced by Emmy and Tony award winner Amanda Plummer) in search of support. Her mother, raising her biological children along with a handful of foster kids and adopting any animal that crosses her path, is literally stretched to her limits—and in utter denial about it. The daughter’s work-related stress quickly turns to annoyance as her saintly mother, seemingly comfortable within her self-inflicted chaos, is clearly in over her head. What follows is a relatable conversation of miscommunication fuelled by sitcom humour and a punk-rock attitude.
Filmmaker Alexandra Lemay brings her stop-motion characters to life against exquisitely crafted sets, featuring enchanting details that pull you into each scene. Told with a healthy dose of off-beat comedy, clever nods to pop culture and the occasional breaking of the fourth wall, her story captures the complex relationships that exist among all families.
NFB BLOG INTERVIEW
Someone once told me the older you get, the more you become a caricature of yourself. Never has this proved truer than when I moved back in with my mother. The more babies and puppies she amassed, the angrier I became…
I had been living in T.O. and got a contract in Montreal, so I figured I’d stay at my mom’s, rent-free. Sweet deal, right? Wrong! I was 30 years old and had been living on my own for over a decade. One would think my mother, now in her sixties—having had five kids and many interesting jobs (including as a pilot!), creative hobbies and even occasionally fostering children in need and breeding dogs—would finally want to take it easy. But no, of course not. My mom—a single parent, by the way—was now a full-time foster parent to not one, but five toddlers, and while most of her biological kids had moved out, my youngest teenage brother was still living under her roof. She was also keeping her real estate job, breeding poodles, adopting stray cats and renovating her house on the side. My mom had embraced her nurturing side to the point of pure chaos. What struck me most wasn’t that her lifestyle was so hectic (my mom has always been comfortable in chaos), but that it was affecting me so much. I was angry at her. I started asking myself, “Why am I, a grown woman, resenting my mother for helping babies and puppies?! What could be more saintly than that?!”
Then it hit me: despite our vastly different professions and personalities, my mother and I were not so different after all. If I were to be critical about my mother, I had to look at myself in the mirror as well. This made me understand that I am just as annoying as she is in my own way. I was angry because I could relate, and because I care. We don’t choose our family, and they can drive us nuts, but remembering that we are all irritating in our own way can help us laugh at life’s frustrations and be more accepting—of our loved ones and ourselves. I always knew my mom was different, but you know what? Things are never clear-cut, so I figure let’s mix it up and embrace the mess.
Alexandra Lemay has a full line of creative hats in her artistic wardrobe — but ‘art director’ is one she wears with particular style and confidence. (Click to read the interview on the NFB blog)
Director and Animator
Photo : Vadim Daniel
A graduate of both Concordia University and Sheridan College, Alexandra Lemay is a freelance artist with a background in media arts, animation and practical special effects. Though she continues to dabble in different disciplines such as puppet and costume fabrication for TV, museums and costume shops, her true passion lies in independent filmmaking via traditional animation and SPFX techniques such as stop-motion. She works on personal and collaborative film projects as writer, director, fabricator and animator. Her selection by the National Film Board of Canada to be part of Hothouse apprenticeship program led to the creation of her stop-motion short, All the rage. The film has been featured in numerous festivals such as the renowned Ottawa International Animation Festival, and received a nomination for best animated short by The Gala du cinéma québécois.
Maral Mohammadian is a producer at the renowned National Film Board of Canada’s Animation Studio in Montreal. Her award-winning auteur films include I Am Here, directed by internet sensation Eoin Duffy, and the innovative mixed-media film The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer, directed by Randall Okita. Maral has helped to develop some of Canada’s top rising talents through the NFB’s internationally recognized Hothouse apprenticeship program, which has spawned a series of one-minute hit films. In addition to animated films, she produces multimedia and interactive projects with a distinct artistic edge.
Michael Fukushima has been making films since 1984. He joined the NFB in 1990 to direct the animated documentary Minoru: Memory of Exile (1992), winner of the Hot Docs Best Short Documentary award. Michael became an NFB animation producer in 1997, co-founding the NFB’s flagship emerging filmmaker program, Hothouse, in 2002 and was appointed executive producer of the NFB’s fabled Animation Studio in 2013.
Some notable films in his filmography include Genie Award winner cNote (2004), by Chris Hinton; Shira Avni’s animated documentary Tying Your Own Shoes (2009), which won the Golden Dove at DOK Leipzig and the prestigious NHK Japan Prize; Muybridge’s Strings (2011), by Oscar-nominated Japanese filmmaker Koji Yamamura; Oscar-nominated films Dimanche (2011), by Patrick Doyon, and Me and My Moulton (2014), by Torill Kove; and, most recently, Cordell Barker’s If I Was God… and Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses. Michael now mostly produces the producers and offers up sagacity, but he continues to keep his hand in—this year, on the first short film in two decades by Oscar winners Alison Snowden and David Fine, and on Oscar winner Torill Kove’s new film, Threads.
Director and Animator
Story and Designs
Alexandra Lemay (Daughter)
Claudia Besso(Daughter, looking back)
Nicholas Di Giovanni (guitar)
David Gossage (bass)
David Grott (trombone & bass trombone)
Director of Photography
Laurent Canniccioni and Emily Bélanger (Jako Lanterne)
Laurent Canniccioni and Emily Bélanger (Jako Lanterne)
Armatures and Rigs
Erik Goulet (Stop Motion Montreal)
Molds and Casts
Character Sculpts and Costumes
Foley and Music Recording
Geoffrey Mitchell (NFB)
Smart Post West
Rosalina Di Sario
A National Film Board of Canada production
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a leader in exploring animation as an artform, a storytelling medium and innovative content for emerging platforms. It produces trailblazing animated works both in its Montreal studios and across the country, and it works with many of the world’s leading creators on international co-productions. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including seven Oscars for NFB animation and seven grand prizes at the Annecy festival. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.