The Emmy-winning film, now streaming on Netflix, proves that life, death, science and religion are not mutually exclusive
After creating waves at over 20 festivals around the world and winning a plethora of awards, the Thai film, frozen hopen, won none other than Best Emmy Award recently. It is also streaming on Netflix which means Indian viewers can catch this outstanding documentary.
frozen hope is a rare and remarkable tale that seeks to show how religion and science, and life and death, need not be antithetical. This is the story of a religious couple who are also strong supporters of science. So when their two-year-old child, whom they love dearly, is stricken with a rare cancer and succumbs to it, they don’t give up.
What are they doing? They preserve her head and brain in a cryonic chamber in the United States, in hopes that she may have the opportunity to experience rebirth inside a regenerated body. Watching it all closely is their science-mad son, who also believes in it.
The story created a huge controversy in Thailand, and it was to better understand the couple that Pailin Wedel, a well-established photojournalist in Bangkok, offered to meet and interview them. They had nearly 14 long meetings, which eventually turned into this incredible documentary, which stirred audiences around the world.
There are many layers to the compelling film, and despite its high-tech theme, it’s ultimately a deeply moving story of parental love and their faith that science can work miracles.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with the young and dynamic Thai-American director Pailin Wedel, whose first feature film this is, but who has made remarkable programs for many global networks.
Did you expect to receive the Emmy Award?
I am in shock ! I thought the movie had gone as far as it could go and I was actually quite proud of how far it had come. But winning the Emmy is beyond my wildest dreams.
What does this mean for you, as a filmmaker, and for Thailand?
It’s incredibly validating that stories from Thailand can resonate with the entire planet. I hope this will encourage Thai filmmakers to dream bigger.
Will the award increase the debate on life and death issues from this story?
I have no idea what the price will or won’t do. But I hope that rather than increasing the debate, it will allow people to reflect and question their own beliefs. I hope they see that people who have different beliefs are still human, still loving, still crying, and still have hope.
Is that why you made the film?
I made the movie because I thought the family was special and interesting and I wanted to share their story with the world. I myself have a degree in biology and I know what it is to have a passion for science and to use science to answer big questions about life. I also felt like it was a rarely seen story from Thailand. When was the last time you saw a movie about Thai scientists?
Is it a controversial topic, by Buddhist or religious precepts?
Many of the film’s themes seem controversial, but when you see it from a family perspective, I hope viewers understand their reasons. I think it’s the kind of movie where viewers can come in with preconceptions about what they’re thinking and come out of it questioning their own beliefs.
What were the reactions to the film, in Thailand and in other parts of the world?
I’m told it’s a film that stays with you. A few viewers who were caring for sick or dying loved ones personally emailed me to share their story because they were so touched by the film. Many asked about the details of the cryonics process, the proof, and some asked about Buddhism.
How long did it take you to make the film? Was it easy to interview the family?
It took two and a half years of filming and two and a half years to find financing before it was released on Netflix. But the main thing in making documentaries is that we had time. We were not diving and extracting. I let the family reveal what they wanted to reveal, in their time.
Did they accept that the film be shot, because they wanted to spread the theory of cryonics?
Not at all. I doubt anyone watching the movie would burn out and sign up for cryonics, because it shows the complexity of the emotions that followed that decision. I think the family agreed because they were tired of being misunderstood.
What were the hardest parts of making the film?
Finding funding as a first-time feature film director was incredibly difficult. I also worried about the impact of the film on the family. Fortunately, most of the comments have been very positive.
How special was it to stream the film on Netflix?
Netflix is great because it allows the film to be seen around the world. I don’t know how many people have seen it on Netflix. But he was on the top ten list for Thailand when he premiered.
Would you be happy if more Indian viewers watched the film?
I hope Indian audiences will like the film. I can’t wait to hear what they think. I spent two years of my childhood in New Delhi, while my father was based there as a foreign correspondent.
What kind of movies would you like to make?
I like to make films that make you do a bit of introspection. I hope to make films that will stay and become part of your DNA, years after you’ve seen them.