Award-winning Manitoba filmmaker’s work coloured by personal subjects, stories

A local filmmaker is taking his unorthodox approach to storytelling to a live audience at Winnipeg’s Cinematheque Friday night.

Aaron Zeghers, best-known as the director of the Gimli Film Festival, is the recipient of the Winnipeg Film Group’s 2019 Hothouse Award — a kind of ‘filmmaker of the year’ honour for Manitobans in the film industry — and he’s combining his experimental work on screen with live performance at Here for Now, a survey of his short films at the local arthouse theatre.

“A lot of my career, I ended up making films about subjects or people who were really close to me,” Zeghers told 680 CJOB.

“You really have to find a subject that you understand.

“Something that’s really important to me is having empathy for the stories and the people involved. I really sort of dislike doc films that are, ‘look at how weird these people are’ or ‘look at how weird this is’. Cinema has this great ability that lets us see the lives of other people and empathize with other people.”

One of those personal documentaries is Holland, Man., which will be part of a multiple-projector performance Friday night. It details the closure of his family’s farm in the titular rural community.

“Around 2012, when my dad told the family he’d be closing down the farming operation, it seemed like making a film about this was the only option, really,” Zeghers said.

“It’s such a part of our shared history across the Prairies. A lot of people can identify it.”

Zeghers said the live performance aspect is part of his goal to expand the idea of what’s possible through cinema.

Winning the Hothouse Award has special meaning, he said, due to his filmmaking roots.

“It’s an honour,” he said. “I’ve applied many times, and I’m finally getting it.

“It’s an extra honour for me, because the Winnipeg Film Group is where I got started with my filmmaking career.”

Here for Now will be presented Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Cinematheque.

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