“Chris the Swiss” director Anja Kofmel and producer Sereina Gabathuler are teaming once again, this time on the near-future sci-fi animated feature “Frozen Soil.” The two are pitching the project at the Cannes Film Market, and have shared early work-in-progress art with Variety.
The feature will reutilize the blend of animation, live action and documentary footage techniques executed so well on “Chris the Swiss,” a festival and critical hit in which the director uses cinema to tell the story of her cousin who was killed mysteriously during the Yugoslav wars when she was only a girl.
Variety’s Jessica Kiang reviewed the film, noting that: “Her (Anja) animations are particularly lovely, evoking the hero worship she felt as a child for her larger-than-life relative.”
While “Chris” was set in the past, “Frozen Soil” will project into the future to examine some of the major themes and questions forming our world today. The film turns on Kai, a woman born blind but granted “sight” with the help of an AI program called Bo(o). In time, Kai begins to question the influence that Bo(o) is having on her, and suspects manipulation.
Gabathuler talked with Variety about using multiple mediums in storytelling, the shift to sci-fi and financing Swiss animation.
You and Anja are best, or at least most recently, known for “Chris the Swiss,” which was an animated documentary about the past. You’ve said “Frozen Soil” mixes live action, animation and documentary, but I wonder; how do you make a documentary set in the future?
“Frozen Soil” is set in the near future. It is dealing with the topic of what impact new technologies and scientific breakthroughs can have on our society. For us it is important that although “Frozen Soil” is a sci-fi movie, its connection to present issues remains strong. Bo(o) has access to all the information available online and she is constantly showing pictures to Kai, who can only now see thanks to a brain implant, not only from the present but also of the past.
Can you share any details about how you want to utilize the three styles?
The film will closely follow the protagonist Kai and the antagonist Bo(o). We will tell the story out of the subjective perspective of these two characters. The main part, let’s call it “the reality of the film,” is Kai’s perspective. This part will be animated. The AI world will be live action in a surveillance kind of way and documentary footage will be used in terms of information that Bo(o) will show to Kai. It is important to Anja to find a way to bridging past experiences and historical key moments to future questions, not in a didactic but a subtle and astonishing way.
Is DV the only company involved so far? Any plans to work with former partners from “Chris” or other productions you’ve worked on?
Yes, DV is so far the only company involved and we are aiming for a two to three country co-production. Mainly dependent on where the animation will be produced. But of course, it makes sense to continue successful collaborations from the past where fitting.
Do you have or are you looking to get any government backing?
Yes, definitely. With “Chris the Swiss” the various funding institutions in Switzerland were very supportive. I am certain that we have a good chance of being supported as well with “Frozen Soil.” Not only for the production, but also for the development, which is a crucial and time-consuming phase in the animation.
Will the animation all be done in Switzerland? Or is that something that will be decided when future co-producers have boarded?
We will develop the project out of Switzerland and go abroad for production as this project is simply too big for just Switzerland. But we hope to get as many Swiss animators involved as possible. Many of them are already living abroad and it is our aim to bring them together and help strengthen the Swiss animation scene doing so.