Nadezhda is a high school English teacher near Sofia who also works as a translator to earn extra cash. Stunned by a theft report by one of her students she is determined to find the culprit and punish him. As this episode unravels at work, her personal life changes drastically. A bailiff notifies her that the bank is about to seize her house and put it on auction because of unpaid mortgage payments. Determined to keep her house, she will do everything she can to get the money before it is too late. Her personal and professional life will converge as she wonders, while exhausting all possible options, whether to question the principles she teaches her students. ‘Employing a cool, clean, and precise storytelling style, Grozeva and Valchanov maintain a seemingly dispassionate air in the face of their heroine's escalating desperation, a distance that only increases their story's emotional impact.’A gripping film, ‘The Lesson offers a tough, unsentimental education in the limits of honesty when confronted with brutal economic reality.’ (Dimitri Epides, Toronto Film Festival)
Toronto International Film Festival
Kutxa-New Directors Award, San Sebastian Film Festival
Winner, Ingmar Bergman International Debut Section, Göteborg Film Festival
Special Jury Prize & Best Screenplay, Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize, Tokyo International Film Festival
Special Award & Critics Guild Award, Golden Rose Bulgarian Film Festival
Best Actress (Margita Gosheva), Festival Premiers Plans, Angers
Week Commencing 5.02.16 Also available on Curzon Home Cinema
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Kristina Grozeva, born in Bulgaria in 1976, graduated in Journalism at the University of Sofia in 2000 and in Film and TV Directing at the National Academy for Theater and Film Art in 2005. She has received several award for her short films, Birds of Heaven (Best Fiction Debut, Bulgarian Film Academy Awards 2008), and Gap (Special mention, Media School International Film Festival, Lodz 2009).
In 2008, Petar Valchanov (born in 1982) also graduated in Film and TV Directing at the NATFA. Shock, his first short film, was selected in the student program at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (2001), and Resurrection won the Best Film award at the International Student Film Festival in Velingrad (2003). Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva have directed the documentary Parable of Life (2009) together, followed by the award winning TV feature Forced Landing. Recently they wrote and directed the short film Jump, which received numerous prestigious awards, among them the European Film Awards 2013 at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and the Excellence Award for Best Picture at Busan International Short Film Festival 2013. The Lesson is the directors' feature-film debut.
2008 Birds of Heaven
Kristina Grozeva & Petar Valchanov
2009 Parable of Life
2014 The Lesson
Written and directed by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov
Cinematography Krum Rodriguez
Editor Petar Valchanov
Sound Dobromir Hristoskov, Ivan Andreev, Veselin Zografov
Production Design Vanina Geleva
Producers Magdelena Ilieva (Abraxas Films Ltd.), Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Konstantina Stavrianou, Rena Vougioukalou
Co-producers Little Wing (Bulgaria), Graal Film (Greece), Little Wing (Bulgaria)
Produced by Abraxas Films
Bulgaria / Greece 2014 / 111 minutes / Bulgarian with English subtitles /Cert 15
Mark Kermode, The Observer
★★★★ 'This powerful drama concerns a schoolteacher trying to instil morality into her pupils while wrestling with other transgressions... Valchanov and Grozneva turn this situation into a tragi-comic and even tragi-farcical ordeal that plays out like a slo-mo car crash'
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
★★★★ ‘This gripping Bulgarian drama that's up there with the Dardennes and Loach.’
Trevor Johnston, Time Out
★★★★ 'Brilliant Bulgarian drama...it's the complexity of the central character Nadezhda (Margita Gosheva, superb) that makes the film so gripping...Like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Lesson is both harrowing and weirdly uplifting.'
Charlotte O'Sullivan, The Evening Standard
★★★★★ 'Co-writers and directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov were inspired by a real life news story to create this extremely pleasing austerity thriller. The results are as exciting as anything yielded up by this year’s blockbuster crop.'
Tara Brady, The Irish Times
★★★★ 'The Lesson has the potency of a Dardenne brothers movie. It's a war movie of the everyday; wry, harsh, insightful.'
Nigel Andrews, The Financial Times
★★★★ ‘Stirring stuff, with a magnetic turn from Margita Gosheva (a Bulgarian Cate Blanchett)'
Kevin Maher, The Times
‘A tight, bleak, suspenseful drama driven by a commanding, unforgiving performance from actress Margit Gosheva.’
Tom Birchenough, The Arts Desk
★★★★ ‘Modern Classic’ Very impressive drama and can’t wait to see what the writer/directors do next.’
Gareth Cremona, Comicbuzz
'This stark, stealthy and dispassionately shot social-realist drams traps views in what turns out to be a precisely paced, nightmarish thriller...a tough, gripping watch.'
Aaron Hillis, Village Voice
'The film ultimately understands poverty as a profound and often irreversible desolation of terra firma.'
Slant Magazine'...commanding central performance from Margita Gosheva who makes Nadezdha both a formidable force of nature but someone who proves to be all too human as well.'
Allan Hunter, Screen International
'A definite must see film. Margita Gosheva’s performance is outstanding.'
Toronto Film Scene
'Aided by Gosheva's convincing performance, Grozeva and Valchanov succeed in creating a captivating glimpse into the life of an average person forced to undergo extraordinary experiences.'
–Stefan Dobroiu, Cineuropa
'Loosely based on a real-life incident employed effectively by the filmmakers as a last-act plot twist, Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s “The Lesson” is a spare, stripped-to- essentials drama about economic stress and mounting desperation that should resonate with a wide range of international audiences. The naturalistic style of the storytelling is stealthily enthralling, as is the lead performance by Margita Gosheva as a provincial
Bulgarian schoolteacher who is slowly, inexorably driven to the edge by crushing debt.'
–Joe Leydon, Variety'As gripping a thriller and as squirm-inducing as a horror film... The real achievement of the movie, an especially impressive one coming from filmmakers of relatively little experience, is that as a viewer you may flinch, quail and end up practically hiding behind your hands, but those visceral reactions are in response to the emotional and psychological damage being inflicted onscreen.'
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist / Indiewire