Content warning: Subject matter in this article and the film described includes suicide and self harm.
In recognition of World Mental Health Day (Saturday, October 10), the National Film Board of Canada is releasing its impactful mixed-media animated short Shannon Amen free to the public through NFB.ca, starting Friday, October 9.
Written and directed by Chris Dainty (One Last Dream), the highly personal film is a loving elegy to a friend lost to suicide, and the passionate and pained artwork she left behind. Based on the art of Shannon Jamieson, Shannon Amen unearths the frantic, passionate, and pained expressions of a young woman overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety as she struggles to reconcile her sexual identity with her religious faith.
The film is a multi-layered memoir that fuses archival footage and an array of animation techniques (including icemation) to reconstruct the complexity, instability, and sorrow that Shannon struggled with — issues that torment other LGBTQIA+ youth like her who face discrimination.
“Her mom [Ellie Forbes] said to me that suicide did not define Shannon, and that really stuck with me,” Dainty said in an NFB interview. “It is a part of her story, but I think that her art is the crux of the story. I was so blown away by her art. I looked at this as my way of taking the audience by the hand and introducing them to Shannon and her art. Through her art and her voice, I hope that people will want to know more about her.”
Shannon Amen is the 2020 winner of the Director – Non-Fiction award at Yorktown Film Festival, and was an official selection of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (2019), Calgary International Film Festival (2019), Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal (2019), and was a finalist for the Prix Écrans Canadiens (2020).