SUNDANCE: Directors Tease 'Dirty Wars,' 'Fire In The Blood,' 'God Loves Uganda,' 'A Teacher,' 'Narco Cultura'

A Teacher by director Hannah Fidell [NEXT Section]

A Teacher trailer from Hannah Fidell on Vimeo.

Diana, a young, attractive teacher at a suburban Texas high school, is well-liked by her students and colleagues. Her life seems to be following the status quo, but in reality she’s having a secret affair with her student Eric. She confides in no one but him, reveling in the teenage terrain of sexting and backseat quickies. Even when the risk of discovery looms over their relationship, her investment in the fantasy remains stronger than reality. Unable to control herself, she heads down a reckless path of self-destruction.

The subject of a teacher-student affair may be tabloid fodder, but writer/director Hannah Fidell resists sensationalism or the temptation to pathologize her protagonist. At its core, Diana’s affair with her student is the manifestation of her avoidance of responsibility, and the film lets us in on her internal struggle. With bold vision, Fidell uses highly controlled pacing, silky camera movements, and a tense percussive sound aesthetic to free her narrative from the confines of convention, while a fascinating performance by Lindsay Burdge transports us into Diana’s head space, where her unabated obsession lives. [Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival]

Responses by Hannah Fidell

A Teacher quick pitch:
The film is about a popular young high school teacher in Austin, TX who has an affair with one of her students.

…and why it's worth seeing at Sundance and beyond:
We’ve all read about female teachers who have sex with their students, but haven’t you ever wondered what actually goes on in one of those relationships? And what actually drives a teacher to cross that line?

Challenges and how it all came together:
Money, money, money. It was also surprisingly hard (or I guess now that I’m thinking about it, not so surprising) to find a school that would let us shoot there. Not many school administrators want to hear that the film being shot in their halls and classrooms is actually about a teacher who sleeps with a student.

Background on the cast:
I wrote the part of the teacher for Lindsay Burdge. One night over dinner  with Lindsay, I mentioned that I had an idea for a film about a high school teacher who has an affair with a student. She immediately told me she wanted to play the role of the teacher and that I wasn’t allowed to cast anyone else. Luckily, I was hoping she would say that.  She’s an incredible actress and now everyone else will get to see just how talented she is.

I had open auditions for the role of the student and Will (Brittain) stood out with his east Texas accent and boyish charm. Will also drove to the audition in a camouflage pick up truck...that kind of sealed the deal for me. For the roommate, played by the lovely Jennifer Prediger, I had watched Joe Swanberg’s Uncle Kent (Sundance ‘10) and developed a giant friend crush on her. She’s the ‘every girl’ that I was looking for. A perfect compliment to the spiraling out of control Diana (the teacher).  If I remember correctly, I did some immediate Facebook stalking after I watched the movie to see who Jenny and I knew in common - Sophia Takal then introduced us over email and the rest was history!

And details on the trailer:
This trailer is meant to show that A Teacher isn’t really a love story. At it’s core, the film is about a lonely, struggling young woman who has made some poor choices...a woman who isn’t ready to face adulthood, who clings to adolescence both literally and metaphorically.

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