Reincarnation, artificial consciousness and augmented reality intersect in U.S. director Jake Wachtel’s Cambodia-set “Karmalink,” for which Variety can reveal the first trailer.
The sci-fi mystery will have its world premiere as the opening film of the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week on Sept. 1.
Set in a near-future Phnom Penh, “Karmalink” is about a 13-year-old boy and his street-smart female friend who team up to search for a gold statue from the boy’s past lives, while traveling across town and also back in time.
But what begins as a hunt for a Buddhist treasure soon leads to greater discoveries in the digital realm that could be either enlightening or obliterating.
Wachtel, who grew up in Palo Alto, started developing the film in 2015, while teaching filmmaking in Phnom Penh. He cast two former students as his leads and shot the film on location after living in their community for several years.
The cast also comprises Thai actor Sahajak Boonthanakit (“Only God Forgives,” “The Beach”) and Thai model and actor Cindy Sirinya Bishop (“The Crown Princess”), as well as Cambodian actors Sveng Socheata (“First They Killed My Father”) and Rous Mony (“The Prey”).
“Karmalink,” which is Wachtel’s directorial debut, is produced by Los Angeles-based Valerie Steinberg Productions. Co-producers are Cambodian director-producer Sok Visal of 802 Films and Christopher Rompré of littleBIG Films.
Valerie Steinberg is also an executive producer of the upcoming indie feature “Beast,” co-directed by U.S. actor and model Riley Keough and producer Gina Gammell, marking both their directorial debuts. She is also a consulting producer of Vietnamese director Ash Mayfair’s period drama “The Third Wife,” that launched from Toronto in 2018.
The “Karmalink” screenplay was penned by Jake Wachtel and Christopher Seán Larsen (“The Long Walk,” “Dearest Sister”) with cinematography by Robert Leitzell (“Black Bear”), production design by Olga Miasnikova, editing by Harrison Atkins and Stephanie Kaznocha, music by Ariel Marx, sound design by Vincent Villa, and visual effects by Blaise and Kyle Hossain.
In June, U.S. company XYZ Films and Copenhagen-based LevelK jointly boarded the film. LevelK is now handling international sales while XYZ represents North American rights.