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Persian Lessons (Persischstunden) directed by Vadim Perelman
Persian Lessons (Persischstunden) directed by Vadim Perelman

Belarus has selected the WWII drama Persian Lessons (Persischstunden) directed by Vadim Perelman to represent the country in the best international feature film race at the 2021 Oscars.

Persian Lessons written by Ilja Zofin (based on the novel “Erfindung einer Sprache”, by Wolfgang Kohlhaase), and starring Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Lars Eidinger, Jonas Nay, along with Leonie Benesch world premiered at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival.

In the film, set in 1942, Gilles, a young Belgian man, is arrested by the SS alongside other Jews and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. He narrowly avoids execution by swearing to the guards that he is not Jewish, but Persian. This lie temporarily saves him, but then Gilles is assigned a seemingly untenable mission: to teach Farsi to Koch, the officer in charge of the camp’s kitchen, who dreams of opening a restaurant in Iran once the war is over. Gilles finds himself having to invent a language he doesn’t know, word by word. As the unusual relationship between the two men begins to incite jealousy and suspicion, Gilles becomes acutely aware that one false move could expose his swindle.

Filmmaker Vadim Perelman directs this gripping drama with a slick, assured hand. He began his career directing commercials and music videos. His debut feature film, House of Sand and Fog, was nominated for three Academy Awards. Like his second feature The Life Before Her Eyes (which starred Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood), the film was also a literary adaptation. In addition, he works for leading US and Russian television companies.

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