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Shira Avni, MFA

Associate Professor (Film Animation), Cinema

Shira Avni, MFA
National Film Board of Canada
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 4352
Website(s): Research Page
National Film Board of Canada Director's Page
Two One Two Festival Page
Two One Two - National Film Board of Canada FAP page
Availability: Please note that as a neurodivergent faculty member, I much prefer email contact to telephone, and rarely check voicemail.

My office hours are Wednesday and Thursday 10-12, by appointment only. Please email me at least 48 hours in advance. Thank you!

Award-winning, neurodivergent animation filmmaker Shira Avni holds an MFA in Film/Video/New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2003). She has been creating animated shorts with the National Film Board of Canada since 1997, where she has directed four films and assisted on a number of other projects. Her research has been supported by the National Film Board of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, Frameline, and Bravo!FACT. Avni's films Petra's Poem (2012), Tying Your Own Shoes (2009), John and Michael (2005), and From Far Away (2000) have garnered over 30 grants and awards, including the prestigious DOK Leipzig Golden Dove and the NHK Japan Prize, and have screened in over 100 festivals worldwide, as well as on CBC, PBS, Bravo, and TV5 television networks. Her latest animated documentary film Two-One-Two is currently in post-production at the National Film Board of Canada, for release in early 2023.

Shira Avni's films address questions of difference and social justice in ways that gently break down the viewer's habitual barriers. Her studio practice involves photography as well as clay-on-glass animation and painting, back-lit to create the shimmering effect of stained glass in motion. Presented in a cinema or darkened gallery space, the work engages the spectator in a highly personal, emotionally cathartic experience. Her current research explores the intersection of motherhood, neurodivergence, identity and interdependence through a combination of animation and documentary media.

Still from the film John and Michael
Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada, 2005
Two One Two (work in progress)
Photo credit: Shira Avni, 2022
Two One Two (work in progress)
Photo credit: Shira Avni, 2022

Teaching activities


Shira Avni regularly teaches the Advanced Animation, Animated Documentary, and Under Camera Animation courses She has also taught Analytical Drawing for Animation, Introduction and Intermediate Animation.

While the Film Animation Program is solely an Undergraduate program, Avni co-supervises or serves on the Masters committee for MFA/MA students in all areas of the Fine Arts as well as Art Therapy, Art Education, and the INDI program.

Video links

John and Michael

John and Michael by Shira Avni, National Film Board of Canada

John and Michael pays homage to two men with Down's syndrome who shared an intimate and profoundly loving relationship that deeply affected the filmmaker. Animated with clay backlit on glass, the film shimmers like stained glass in motion.

Tying Your Own Shoes

Tying Your Own Shoes by Shira Avni, National Film Board of Canada

Tying Your Own Shoes is an intimate glimpse into the exceptional mindsets and emotional lives of four adult artists with Down Syndrome. An artful, four-way essay about ability, this animated film explores how it feels to be a little bit unusual.

Petra's Poem

Petra's Poem by Shira Avni, National Film Board of Canada

In this short film, Toronto artist Petra Tolley, who has Down syndrome, performs a soliloquy that encapsulates her distinctive take on the social self. Employing rotoscopy, hand-drawn animation techniques and subtle stereoscopic 3D, the film captures Petra as she engages the camera with unflinching directness and dignity.

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