June 6, 2023 @ 7:00 pm – 9:10 pm
Manhasset Cinemas
430 Plandome Road
Manhasset NY
Film Team
Vadim Perelman | 2021 | Russia, Germany, Belarus | Drama, War | 127 minutes | English subtitles

Our GCIFF 2021 Audience Award Winner for Best Film is back by popular demand. For those of you who missed it, here is your chance to see what everyone was talking about.

Occupied France, 1942. Gilles is arrested by SS soldiers alongside other Jews and sent to a concentration camp in Germany.  He narrowly avoids sudden execution by swearing to the guards that he not Jewish, but Persian. This lie temporarily saves him, but then Gilles gets assigned a life-or-death mission – to teach Farsi to the officer in charge of the camp’s kitchen, who dreams of opening a restaurant in Persia (Iran) once the war is over. Through an ingenious trick, Gilles manages to survive by inventing words of “Farsi” every day and teaching them to the officer.  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 and that he will not be able to keep his secret for very long….

Interview with Director Vadim Perelman:

Is it based or inspired by a true story?

The film is based on a short story written by Wolfgang Kohlhaase called “Erfindung einer Sprache.“ That being said, there are hundreds of similar stories, in which wit and smart-thinking enabled people to survive. I would like to think that “Persian Lessons” is a compilation of these.

In fact, a friend of Wolfgang Kohlhaase told him a similar story some years after the war. But it only had some similarities. Kohlhaase’s adaptation used totally different detail. There are stories that are united in only one thing: they are insane, precisely because it required courage, luck, quick thinking and the help of individuals to escape the relentless pursuit of German fascists and their supporters.

The film depicts a complex, uncomfortable relationship, based on mutual interests but that at times seems to go deeper than that. What did you try to show through that relationship?

Well, I think I try to show that we are all people, we are all capable of love and we’re all capable of evil things as well as horrific acts of hatred. There is no such thing as an absolute good and absolute evil. It’s always somewhere in the middle. I always try to see my characters under different angle and see their various shades. I wanted to show the transformation Koch goes through: he is able to communicate things in invented farsi language, things he couldn’t say in German, taboo things. It’s not a coincidence that when Gilles asks him “who are you?” in fake Farsi, he doesn’t answer “Hauptsturmführer Koch”, he says “Klaus Koch”. So I found it fascinating to portray the growth of this person, his humanization and the fact that through this language he is able to reach and show certain parts of himself that he wasn’t able to perform in German.