April 06, 2018 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Ever since Christian Sonderegger was 12 years old watching Alfred Hitchcock movies, he knew he wanted to grow up to create his own. After three decades working in the film industry, Sonderegger brings us “Coby,” his first feature-length film from the director’s chair.
Born in France, Sonderegger was given up for adoption. Years later after finding his birth mother, he discovered he also had a 12-year-old half-sister, Suzanna, living in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The siblings would see each other every few years, and when Suzanna asked Sonderegger to create a film about her desire to transition from female to male, using the transitional name Coby, Sonderegger had reservations.
“I thought it was a bad idea,” recalls Sonderegger. “I was more [of a] narrative [storyteller], and I didn’t want a reality show showing all the dramatic parts of [the transition]. I wanted to talk about the Coby I saw in front of me.”
For this reason, Sonderegger chose to shoot the film five years after Coby’s transition was complete to capture his life as he’s leading it now.
Although the director envisioned where the film would lead when he began, the story went beyond Coby’s personal experience to include the interactions with his close family and friends.
“In France, it’s harder to get a new identity,” says Sonderegger, “and it’s very different to see families helping out. This topic is very exotic to them.”
Given the film’s presumed exotic nature, however, Sonderegger was determined to “get intimate without getting voyeuristic.”
“Editing had to be very careful,” Sonderegger says. “I wanted to talk to a broad audience, not just the LGBT community, and not be too overwhelming or intrusive. I wanted to change the way people see this, by not just focusing on the suffering, but instead focusing on the positive.”
A welcome approach to a unique storyline, indeed. Sonderegger insists that although “Coby” is an American story, the film is unmistakably French from the way it was shot and edited, making European audiences feel right at home. American reactions, however, are more of a mystery.
“I’m really French,” says Sonderegger. “I don’t really know at all. This is a very big American premiere for us, and it’s going to be interesting. I’m very excited to see, I have no idea [how they will react].”
Ultimately, Sonderegger hopes to portray the same message to audiences, no matter on which side of the Atlantic they reside.
“The idea of the film is that we’re the same, and that nothing is wrong with Coby,” Sonderegger says. “Normality is a wider range of behaving and acting than we think.”
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