Luna Wedler is Crossing Boundaries and Borders in “Biohackers”
font-family:"Arial",sans-serif;mso-bidi-font-weight:bold’>, Jean-Luc Godard, Marc Forsternormal’>Biohackers. And there is more to come. The 20-year-old is only the beginning of a new wave of Swiss talent with international ambitions.
It’s not every day that a Swiss actress headlines a Netflix original series, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Biohackers. Luna Wedler plays Mia, a medical student who tries to get access to the inner circle of visionary professor Tanja Lorenz (Jessica Schwarz) at the University of Freiburg. She suspects the professor is responsible for events in her past. Along the way, Mia discovers more than what she bargained for. The six-part thriller is set in the world of biotechnology and genetic engineering – not exactly the Swiss actress’s field of expertise in real life. “I was good at languages and sports – not biology and chemistry, but luckily my father is a doctor so I could ask him questions when something wasn’t clear,” Luna Wedler says in a Zoom chat from the flat she shares with two others in Zürich.
The role in Biohackers, which was originally scheduled to be released in April but was pushed back to late August due to some sensitive “viral content” in times of Corona, is a big step for the Zürich native. And it’s her first series. Giving her all on every single day of the 65 shooting days was hard and intense, she says. Plus, there is the added pressure of carrying a Netflix show around the world: “When I think about it, I feel the pressure, but I am pretty good at not letting it get to me too much in order to protect myself.” The success of the German Netflix productions Dark and The Story of My Wife in which she appears alongside Léa Seydoux.
Acting came naturally to Wedler, but it was not a childhood dream. It was more a fluke that she auditioned for Niklaus Hilber’s Amateur Teens when she was fifteen and all of a sudden, she knew what she wanted to do. “Acting saved me because I really did not know what to do with myself. It was a gift to find this passion and I am grateful that things go well so far.” She attended the European Film School in Zürich and got her breakthrough role in Blue My Mind in 2018. She played the new girl in school who, all of a sudden, notices some changes in her body. Not the usual changes girls go through in puberty. Her character developed slowly but surely into a mermaid, fins and all. The allegorical tale of alienation and transformation did get Luna Wedler the European Shooting Star Award in Berlin and the Best Actress Award at the Swiss Movie Awards, as well as her next leading roles in Germany (Das schönste Mädchen der Welt, Dem Horizont so Nah).
Wedler’s rise coincides with a surge of remarkable Swiss filmmakers hoping to get international attention: Blue My Mind’s director Lisa Brühlmann made the trip across the water first to London for directing episodes of Killing Eve and then to the US for an episode of M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV+ series Servant. Then there is Paradise War: The Story of Bruno Manser, directed by Niklaus Hilber with a noteworthy performance by Sven Schelker who plays Manser, a young Swiss backpacker turned environmentalist who ended up living with a Penan tribe in the rainforest of Malaysia fighting for the rights of the indigenous people and against timber companies and deforestation. In 2000 he disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was never heard of again. With a budget of $6 million, it is one of the most expensive Swiss films in recent history.
Also hoping to connect with audiences across the Swiss borders is Platzspitz Baby (Needle Park Baby) based on the Michelle Halbheer’s memoir of the same name about growing up as the child of a heroin-addicted mother. In the 1980s, Platzspitz park in Zürich made international headlines when authorities permitted drug use and sales in the park and even provided clean needles as part of a program to stop the spread of Aids. The mother in Pierre Monnard’s film is played by Sarah Spale who has also gained wide recognition in the title role of the limited Swiss crime series Wilder.
Not only are Swiss filmmakers hopeful for a brighter future. The Zürich Film Festival (September 24 – October 4, 2020) remains optimistic that it can hold its 16th edition with certain restrictions and has announced its first Gala premieres. Its opening night film is Bettina Oberli’s My Wonderful Wanda), a tragicomedy about a rich Swiss family patriarch and his Polish in-house nurse Wanda. It’s the Festival’s first opening night film directed by a woman. “The film represents the (cinema d’auteur grand public) for our gala section perfectly and it stands for a new direction in Swiss films to hold up a mirror to audiences and to entertain in an intelligent manner at the same time”, explains Artistic Director Christian Jungen.
Among the world premieres of other Swiss films are veteran Rolf Lyssy’s Eden für Jeden (Zürcher Tagebuch (Zurich Diary) that takes audiences through the changes in the director’s hometown since 1961.
And what will Luna Wedler be up to once productions restart? She was supposed to be in front of the cameras this summer to shot Der Passfälscher (The Forger) based on the autobiography of Cioma Schönhaus, a young graphic artist in Berlin who saved hundreds of lives by providing forged passports to people fleeing Nazi Germany and who escaped himself eventually to Switzerland. But instead, she cooked and watched movies at home with her roommates during the Lockdown. Just like the rest of us.