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Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #45: Hannah Fidell Explores the Affair of ‘A Teacher’

Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #45: Hannah Fidell Explores the Affair of 'A Teacher'

Hannah Fidell’s NEXT competition film “A Teacher” explores themes of trust and authority, sex and power.  Fidell was one of Filmmaker Magazine’s filmmakers to watch after she had two short films at SXSW last year. 

What It’s About: A Teacher is about a popular high school teacher in Austin, Texas who has an affair with one of her students.

And so it’s really about: The film is about our ability as humans to justify actions that might be deemed inappropriate or wrong. It’s also about holding on to youth, both literally and metaphorically, as a way to avoid the responsibilities of adulthood.

What was your path to filmmaking? I just moved back to Brooklyn after a year and a half hiatus in Austin, Texas. I initially went out there to shoot my short, The Gathering Squall, but then I ended up signing a lease on a house with a big back yard and adopting a dog…Austin tends to have that effect on people. I’m originally from Bethesda, Maryland and went to college in Bloomington, Indiana. I think it’s really important to see how the rest of the country lives…I’m more interested in stories that deal with people who have different values and backgrounds than I do…and sometimes you have to actually spend time in a new place to get to know it well enough to write a story set there.

What previous films impacted this one? “Funny Games,” “The Piano Teacher,” “Lolita,” “House of Pleasures,” “Opening Night,” all of the Dardenne brothers’s films…these all made me feel like I had been kicked in the stomach…that left me gasping afterwards, wanting more.

What do you expect of Sundance audiences? I want viewers to keep thinking about the protagonist, about the ending, and I want them to use their own imagination when thinking about what happens to Diana (the teacher) after the credits roll. Watching a film doesn’t have to be an entirely passive experience. Hopefully they’ll feel that same kicked-in-the-gut feeling that I get from my favorite films.

What’s up next? I’ve written a new script for a film that is now tentatively titled ‘That Girl On TV’ – it’s about a reality television star and her rise to fame. It’s very loosely based on Edith Wharton’s The Custom Of The Country. I’m hoping to film it this year.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.

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