Some of the best creativity in Hollywood is to be found in its animation. The same may be said of Europe. Anja Kofmel, an alum of Lucerne’s School of Design and Art and Paris’ Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, adds to the growing cannon of Swiss animation with her feature film debut, “Chris the Swiss.”
The animation/live action hybrid has already gained industry and festival recognition: a four-way European co-production backing, led by Zurich-based Dschoint Ventschr; international distribution by Paris-based sales agent UDI; selection for Cannes Film Festival’s 2018 Critics’ Week.
Kofmel introduced scenes from “Chris the Swiss” at March’s Cartoon Movie, talking with passion about the feature, one of the most challenging at the co-production and sales forum. What came across was a poignant contradiction. “Chris the Swiss” tells the story of her cousin Christian Würtenberg, a Swiss journalist who was murdered under strange circumstances during the Balkans War. It’s the story of Chris’ 15-year younger-cousin – Kofmel herself – and her attempt to find out what happened to him.
The animated parts chronicles the story of what Würtenberg might have gone through in the last weeks and days of his live, the live action her investigation.
“What fascinates me are stories which explore the thin line between reality and fiction, experiment with the thin line between inner perception and outside reality,” Kofmel told Variety two years ago. One case to point, she suggested, is Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing,” which she particularly admires.
However meticulous the investigation, the real heart of the film remains the huge impact the death of Würtenberg, a hero to the teen Kofmel, had on her then and now, and her recognition in the use of animation that, despite the film’s documentary thrust, she can only surmise the circumstances of her cousin’s assassination. Some documentaries seek to explain the world, others emphasize the inexplicable, such as the murky horror of the Balkans War itself.
Kofmel’s emphasis on subjectivism can be seen in the use of near surreal symbolism. One example she gives: Her use of an image of a swarm of insects to suggest an army of soldiers attacking a village. Kofmel will turn to her them of perception and reality in a new hybrid film she’s developing, turning on a blind girl who is suddenly able to see – but not the same world as the people around her.
John Hopewell contributed to this article