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April 14, 2013, 12:00 AM | posted by in Filmmakers
Filmmaker Nic Balthazar's movies tackle the tough subjects—autism and euthanasia, to name a few.
His first film, "Ben X" in 2008 was about autism. He worked on the story after he read that an autistic teenager in Belgium, his homeland, committed suicide after years and years of bullying. The boy's mother was devastated. After reading about this tragedy, Balthazar began work on the topic. The story became a film.
"I hope that my film can bring some hope where there was none," says Balthazar, who is being honored as one of this year's CIFF "Someone to Watch."
Although his story is based on a specific event in Belgium, Balthazar knows that it is a wider issue than that.
"When I travel with the film, I see that this topic is a story everywhere," he says. “When I go to Korea, they say, ‘this is a Korean problem.’ When I go to Japan, they say 'it is such a Japanese story.'”
He notices that awareness is growing, especially in America. “It is no longer the unknown disease, or issue, because Americans are addressing it," he says.
The issue has now become a multimedia play, entitled "Nothing," that is currently playing in Cincinnati. The result is a fascinating 'multimedia theater piece" that was a huge hit in Belgium. It uses bits from the film, too, but uses gaming, the Internet and music to tell the story.
His latest film, "Time of My Life," focuses on an issue that is just as "zeitgeist" or thorny—euthanasia.
The film tells a story of a historical event. Belgium is the second country to legalize euthanasia. This is the story of Mario Verstraete, a Belgian politician and the first man to make use of the law.
"He fought for the law for seven years before he knew that he himself had a very aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis," explains Balthazar.
The story is told from the point of view of his best friend Thomas, a doctor, who must make a choice—whether or not to help his friend die.
The movie talks about what happens in a country where for the first time in history people who suffer can decide on their own life or death. But it is more than that.
"It is a story about friendship. And about life ... about friendship for life," says Balthazar. "It is courageous for CIFF to invite us, because the topic is a very touchy subject," he continues. “[Because] film is always very powerful," Balthazar says his projects are important “awareness raisers” for schools, parents and others.
And his films always deal with very important and topical issues. "Whether it is autism or overweight or gay or different ... the main problem is other people who won’t let you be different," says Balthazar.
--Anne M. DiTeodoro
Photo by Janet Macoska.
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