Local author Andrew Unger says Sunday’s Oscar win for Women Talking gives local writers hope and confidence.
Women Talking received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, a celebrated author and native of Steinbach. The screenplay was written by Canadian Director Sarah Polley.
Andrew Unger says he was overjoyed by the win.
“All the way from Steinbach to LA I think we were cheering loud enough that she could have heard us perhaps. We were cheering, I was in tears, it was amazing.”
Unger is an author known for the Daily Bonnet and now the Unger Review as well as his novel Once Removed. He notes watching Women Talking receive an Oscar was a surreal experience.
“Miriam came from our little town, it was a little town back then, maybe not so much anymore, but she came from Steinbach and she became a literary icon and now one of her novels gets turned into an Oscar-winning movie, that is amazing and we should all be proud of it.”
Unger says this win is incredibly encouraging for members of our local arts community here in southeastern Manitoba.
“I think it gives us hope. Maybe we are not going to win an Oscar but you can write stories about things that matter to you and people want to read them and people want to connect with them.” He adds “you don’t have to be from New York or LA to have a story worth telling.”
With all that said, Miriam Toews is a somewhat divisive figure in Steinbach as many believe she paints the community in a bad light. Unger says as far as he is concerned this is untrue. He encourages residents to connect with her work.
“Read her books with an open mind, I think that she has no dislike or hatred of Steinbach or Mennonites. She is a Mennonite herself and her criticisms have to do with certain issues. She went through a lot in her life and she is raising important issues. I don’t want to speak for her, but the message in her books is ‘we can get better’, and we are getting better."
In the leadup to the Academy Awards this past weekend, Unger hosted a special event at The Public Brewhouse and Art Gallery with Quita Alfred, the costume designer for Women Talking the movie.
Unger says it was a packed house and they learned a whole lot in the process.
He adds “when Sarah Polley came up to give her acceptance speech [at the Oscars], she acknowledged the cast and crew in the audience and Quida Alfred who was in Steinbach just a few days ago for our Q and A stood up and we saw her and that was really great too.”