Zombie short to be zombie feature

Hugo Lilja’s zombie short Återfödelsen is competing in the short film competition at the Berlin film festival, but will be turned into a feature film. The story is about zombies turned into slaves.

Återfödelsen (literal translation; Rebirth) takes place in a future where a virus has turned large portions of the population into zombies. They are captured by zombie hunters and surgically manipulated into becoming slaves for the remaining healthy population. One day one of the doctors receives his own mother for treatment. Even with this story, Swedish director Hugo Lilja sees the undead as metaphors for political and existential questions. He does not want to lump his movie into the big zombie genre, and says he doesn’t regard the movie as a great horror movie, in spite of brain drilling taking place. “This is not a zombie film and we don’t market it as splatter. We want the zombies in the film to feel everyday-like, like in an ordinary slaughter house where people go to work daily. Some people have said they don’t normally like zombies, but that they like this film”, Lilja says to Filmnyheterna.

The idea to make a zombie film came five years ago when Lilja shared living quarters with a friend who loved zombie movies. Lilja was not interested in the genre at all, but when he saw George Romero’s classics Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) he changed his mind. “I have always been a fan of genre films, but had a fine taste in films and only liked Blade Runner and Alien” Lilja says. But now he has got other ideas. Återfödelsen became his final exam project for his directing studies at the Dramatic Institute in Stockholm. It cost about 150.000 dollars to make, of which some came from Swedish state television, which means it will probably be shown there.

The 28 minute Återfödelsen is also going to be turned into a feature film, under the wings of producer Bonnie Skoog Feeney, who produced Sweden’s Oscar contribution last year. However, much development work is left. A basic script exists but Lilja will work further on that. Money has been sought from the Swedish Film Institute, the government body that co-finances films, and Swedish television might contribute this time as well. Lilja hopes the budget will be medium high, as he does not want to make a low budget movie. “I’d like to shoot the film in Germany. I’d like it to be in a European city but not Berlin or Paris. We made Återfödelsen in Stockholm because we could not afford to take with us the make-up artists” Lilja explains. He expects the movie to start shooting in 2012, if everything goes according to his plans.

While Lilja hopes the short may do good at genre festivals, Återfödelsen has already been somewhat successfull; it was nominated to an European Film Award at the Berlin film festival, which takes place right now. Nominations are suggested by various jurys at several film festival around Europe, and the European equivalent of the Oscars is handed out on December 3rd, also in Berlin. The motivation for the nomination reads; “Full of passion for cinema, humorous, visually stunning, charismatic. In 28 minutes the audience rides a rollercoaster of cinematic electricity.”