Opening 19 May 2022
The challenges facing a new teacher always seem to be measured in the first few moments of arrival, and for Hannes Fuchs (Aleksandar Petrovi) it is no different. Arriving in a classroom at a prison, Fuchs’ insecurities mount as he becomes an assistant to an extraordinary and unconventional teacher, Elizabeth Berger (Maria Hofstätter) who cares deeply for her class. He knows he is there to replace her, but how can he earn her respect? From the beginning he makes mistakes that put the student who needs him most at risk. Director Arman T. Riahi has written a complex narrative that we often see in award winning Iranian films and places it in the country which is now his home, Austria.
Raihi´s idea for this film stems from working on his first documentary. While working on that documentary Schwarzkopf focusing on the rapper scene, he contacted a famous Austrian prison educator Wolfgang Reibniger who has been teaching for the last twenty-five years using unconventional methods to reach out to his students. Riahi wanted to understand why teenagers felt such discord with their surroundings. After attending Reibniger’s unorthodox classes and understanding his methods, Riahi’s eyes were opened to a different perspective that needed to be addressed. Riahi chose to focus on the voices of those students behind those bars. Riahi chose using the two teachers brilliantly played by Petrovi and Hofstätter who are up against a system where rules and regulations are the standard. He also decided to ask the question of what happens to those who don’t fit into the system like a non-binary person, like the character of the introvert Samira, and what are her chances of actually surviving. He wanted to film in an actual prison which was not permitted but had a chance meeting with the French camerawoman Sophie Maintigneux, who came up with a problem-solving idea. As a filmmaker we don’t need to see the visual elements but need to focus on the acoustics. So his film takes us down a path filed with sound elements that include hidden voices, official drill calls, shouting prisoners, the opening and closing of doors as well as the rattling of keys which gave us the feeling of being in this suffocating atmosphere.
It is not a surprise this film has already received awards for best director, best screenplay, as well as best film of the young jury at the Filmfest Max Ophüls, just after it had its debut at the Warsaw International Film Festival in October 2020. It is an inspiring film that might be able to enlighten us on how to change a growing problem in our society. So many young people are growing up without dreams and a vision of where they belong in our world. This is truly an important film that gives hope and may hold a key to the future generations of lost souls. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)