The parallel struggles of a Palestinian schoolteacher grieving the loss of his son and an American couple fighting to reclaim their son from kidnappers propel writer-director Farah Nabulsi’s gripping feature debut.
Palestinian schoolteacher Basem El-Saleh (Saleh Bakri) has been devastated since a tragic incident involving his teenage son, which also ended his marriage. Basem becomes particularly involved in the lives of two of his students — brothers, studious Adam and more defiant Yacoub — as their home is bulldozed without warning, bringing immense upheaval to their family. A British social worker (Imogen Poots) assigned to help Yacoub grows closer to Basem as they share their pasts.
Meanwhile, an American diplomat and his wife beg for the return of their kidnapped son, a soldier who has been held hostage for three years by a Palestinian resistance group. In exchange for the soldier’s release, the group demands the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners — a prospect the government cannot or will not entertain, fearing it will embolden other abductors. As the parents exhaust their networks and are frustrated by the lack of progress in their case, the scope of the search moves with full force into Basem’s neighbourhood.
Soon, the search for the soldier, Adam’s growing rage, and Basem’s ongoing commitment to supporting political resistance make for a volatile combination that threatens to destroy everyone involved. The Teacher, set and shot with difficulty in occupied territory, is the feature debut of Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning British-Palestinian writer-director Farah Nabulsi. Inspired by true events and led by a commanding and wounded performance from Bakri, the film probes the desperate actions of those who feel they have no recourse for justice.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence, frightening scenes