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CHRIS THE SWISS (2018, ŠVI) – 8/10

In this hybrid of documentary and animated film, the Swiss Anja Kofmel set out in search of an answer to the question of what happened to her cousin, a Swiss journalist and adventurer who went to Croatia as a war reporter in the fall of 1991 to report on the war, and what month later he returned home in a sack. In her film, Kofmel deals with a rather controversial topic for us, and she tries to follow the path of Chris the Swiss, as he was called, and now an adult woman who admired her older cousin as a girl is now trying to investigate the background of his death. Although Chris arrived in the war as a reporter, he was found dead in the uniform of international mercenaries who fought on the side of Croatia during the war, and the director tries to penetrate into the real role he played in this conflict.

And while “Chris the Swiss” is nominally an investigative documentary, with animated segments Kofmel completes the documentary and researched part, and gives the part as if it represents not only her dreams, thoughts, memories and fears, but with them completes the part of the story that is not officially documented. However, the basic question that the author asks here is what is it about young people that drives them to join a war they have nothing to do with, and what is it about war that attracts people. That’s how we learn that as a 17-year-old Chris got involved in the war between South Africa and Namibia and later went to crisis places in the world as a reporter or in who knows what role. Chris was definitely one of those War Junkies, and just like Kofmel is trying to figure out who he really was, that’s the main question the viewer is asking themselves.

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Some interlocutors even refute the thesis that Chris was a spy, and that he was not at all a harmless guy, as Kofmel saw him when she was a child, which is confirmed by the fact that he was in contact with the well-known terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos, in the eighties. A jackal who is still in a French prison today. Armed with Chris’ diaries and notes, the author set out on a journey trying to follow the tracks of her dead cousin, and in this film we get the story of the Homeland War from the perspective of foreign reporters who reported from here. Many reporters who are still alive remember Chris, who arrived in Croatia as a reporter, only to find that his role would very quickly become quite murky and mysterious. After some time, Chris decided to actively join the war in the international platoon of foreign volunteers led by another, to say the least, mysterious guy, Eduardo Rosza – Flores better known as Chico.

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He brings us this film and some truly shocking and gruesome documentary footage from that time, footage that is not usually shown on shows like the TV calendar. Footage of the killed (on several occasions we also see Chris’s body in a bag) mostly civilians, and some theses that we don’t often have the opportunity to listen to are presented, as well as some theses that are certainly not very accurate. Especially when Kofmel tries to put the whole war in context and bring the historical background closer. What of all that Kofmel managed to find out while trying to find out the real fate of her cousin is really true, it is difficult to know, but just as much as she tries to discover the real circumstances, she tries more than a quarter of a century later to penetrate into the mind of her cousin. She ponders how all this could have happened and how no one managed to stop this horrifying massacre and what her cousin tried to do to make it end the way it did.

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“Chris the Swiss” should not be seen as a film whose tendency is to reveal the background, causes and reasons for the outbreak of a well-known war. Kofmel had no such pretensions, but “Chris the Swiss” is an intimate and personal story about an individual tragedy and the unfortunate fate of a person close to the author. Of course, any content related to the Homeland War, especially when it does not fit into some standard narratives in these areas, immediately causes controversy, but the author’s intention was definitely not to be wise and teach about everything that happened there. She equally wanted to understand what it was about her cousin that drove him to go where he was going, as she tried to find out the true unfolding of his fate. “Chris the Swiss” premiered at Cannes Critics’ Week, and won the award for the best Swiss documentary of the year.

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