The 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference

Shira Avni

Animating Disability: Screening and Discussion

Portrayals of people with disabilities remain rare in animated media. The animated documentary uses symbolic imagery to bring personal histories to life, portraying the essence of emotion and memory. Animation is unique in its capacity to address difficult topics in ways that break down people's habitual barriers, subverting prejudices and providing a vehicle for artistic expression and self-advocacy by people with disabilities. Filmmaker Shira Avni will present and discuss excerpts of three films created in collaboration with people who have Down syndrome. She will discuss the animated documentary as well as issues of self-representation of people with disabilities in animation.

Biographical statement:
Shira Avni has been an animation filmmaker at the National Film Board of Canada since 1997, and is currently an Assistant Professor of Animation at Concordia University. Her current research looks at animation, documentary, and the Disability Arts movement. Avni’s recent film, John and Michael, a tender love story between two men with Down syndrome, garnered 18 international awards and grants. John and Michael screened in over 60 festivals worldwide, as well as on PBS, CBC, and TV5 television networks. Tying Your Own Shoes, a collaborative animated documentary completed in the summer of 2009, provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of four artists with Down syndrome.