Unrest in School Desks

Four films from this year’s Zagreb Film Festival program deal with professors’ and students’ problems:
‘Radical’, ‘Teacher’s Lounge’, ‘Excursion’ and ‘Delegation’


This year’s Sundance Audience Award winner, Radical by Mexican director Christopher Zalla from the main program of the 21st ZFF is a touching and contagiously optimistic story about hope and chances. It is based on a true story from an article by Joshua Davis “A Radical Way of Unleashing a Generation of Geniuses”, published in 2013. on Wired, about a school in a remote part of Mexico.

Sergio Juarez (Eugenio Derbez – CODA) is the new teacher at a poor school in the border town of Matamoros, ravaged by neglect, corruption, and violence, ranking as the worst-performing school in Mexico. Frustrated by the widespread apathy, Sergio turns to radical methods to engage the students and help them fulfill their potential. After stumbling upon the educational methods of pedagogue Sugata Mitra, which children themselves empower and guide, Sergio decides to try and improve the lives of his 12-year-old students. Can an approach to education based on curiosity, initiative, and freedom, rather than coercion, rote learning, and tests as the measure of success, unlock their potential?

The main program also features Excursion, the long-awaited feature debut by Paris-based Bosnian director Una Gunjak (The Chicken– EFA Award for Best Short Film 2014). While her class prepares for an excursion, Sarajevo teenager Iman draws the attention of an older boy. In a game of truth or dare, she lies about sleeping with him. The rumor spreads throughout the school and things spiral out of control. The realization of this important story, awarded in Locarno (Special Mention,  Concorso Cineasti del Presente program), is described by the author as an “impulse and obligation she felt as a woman in her mid-30s who is untangling the knots of her own sexual education, as a Bosnian woman observing today’s youth, and ultimately, as a feminist”. Excursion is the Bosnian entry for the Academy Award.

Audiences will find themselves behind the school desk of a German school thanks to The Teachers’ Lounge by Ilker Çatak, a brilliant study of power dynamics and which will be screened in the Together Again program. A dedicated and idealistic young maths and PE teacher, Carla Nowak (Leonie BeneschBabylon, Berlin; The White Ribbon), gives it her all in her class, but outside of it she is forced to constantly defend her students. Due to a series of petty thefts in the school, other teachers have turned into amateur detectives who want to interrogate and intimidate children. When one of her students becomes the target of the school investigation, Carla decides to find out the truth herself. However, things are not that simple and Carla becomes entwined in a web of accusations, doubts, and betrayals. The Teachers’ Lounge is the German representative for the Academy Award. It won the C. I. C. A. E. Award in the Panorama program, and the Label Europa Cinemas Award at this year’s Berlinale.

Specially aimed at the highschool audience, ZFF’s PLUS program features a series of coming-of-age stories and everything that comes with growing up, and this year, it will be partially shown in theaters and partly online. The selection features the best film in the youth category of the prestigious festival in Zlín, which premiered in Berlinale. Delegation by Asaf Saban follows three Israeli high school students on a class trip to Poland and the visit to the Holocaust memorial sites.