Ilker Çatak, director of “The Teachers’ Room”: “You only hear about immigrants when there is a disaster…”


German director Ilker Çatak likes to recall this saying: “Hell is paved with good intentions. » His fourth feature film, The Teachers’ Room , shot behind closed doors in a college in Hamburg, raises the question of the excesses of right-thinking. This gripping school thriller, which represents Germany at the Oscars on Sunday March 10, is inspired by a childhood memory of the filmmaker and his co-writer, Johannes Duncker: one day, in physics class, three teachers asked the girls to go out and boys to open their wallets on the table…

In “The Teachers’ Room”, a college is faced with a series of thefts. To put an end to false accusations, a The professor leaves her computer camera running. But the situation turns against her… Your film is the reflection of a society which tends to get carried away and lack discernment, right?

In fact, the professor, Carla Nowak, is doing her best, but other people think they are even more moral than her… At the moment, I sometimes have the impression that we are back in medieval times: a an individual who is judged to have acted badly is put in the public square and can be spat on by everyone… It is important that cancel culture can offer a second chance, especially since a moral judgment may be obsolete ten years later. That said, cancel culture also has its advantages. For example, when Elon Musk makes anti-Semitic comments, you can decide to no longer buy your Tesla or no longer browse its platform… It is important to consider each case differently.

Have any films nourished your thinking?

Yes, two French films: Entre les Murs , by Laurent Cantet [filmed in a college, Palme d’or in 2008] and La Loi du Marché , by Stéphane Brizé [the path strewn with humiliations of an unemployed person, in 2015] . And then a Belgian film: Le Jeune Ahmed , by the Dardenne brothers [2019] , which describes in particular the relationship between a teacher and a student. I would also say that, on a visual level, Elephant , by Gus Van Sant [2003] , deposit.

Where did you shoot?

Initially, I wanted to film during school hours. I asked permission from several schools in Hamburg, but they all said it was impossible, except during the short holidays. Which didn’t leave enough time. Difficult to make a film in two weeks. It was then that my production director found an old technological high school just before its demolition…

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