A New Film By Israeli Screenwriter and Director, Nadav Lapid
“I don’t have complete memories of my poems. It’s a mystery out of consciousness and I’m still, as an adult, not quite able to explain it.” Speaking from New York, Tel Aviv-born screenwriter/director, Nadav Lapid 40, is on a whirlwind U.S. media tour to publicize the commercial release of his most recent award-winning Israeli film, The Kindergarten Teacher. The film made its debut in 2014 at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a complicated but lyrical ode to the gifted child (with elements of a thriller,) as seen through the eyes of his kindergarten teacher who becomes mesmorized, then ultimately obsessed by the genius of a five-year-old prodigy in her class.
Lapid’s personal back story is all the more fascinating because it’s the autobiographical inspiration for the film: “Between the ages of four and a half and seven, I wrote over 100 poems, most of which I dictated to my nanny. The first was a love poem to Hagar, the older sister of my friend from kindergarten,” says Lapid. “It was presumably my heyday in terms of creativity. At seven years old I stopped, not wanting to write anymore or have anything to do with those poems. I resumed writing prose only after I was released from the army, but never a poem. My parents put my poems in a drawer and no one took them out for over 25 years. I avoided reading them altogether, until the idea formed in my mind to make this film.”
Nira, (played by actress, Sarit Larry) is a rather introverted, married kindergarten teacher (actor Lior Raz, FAUDA plays her husband,) an empty nester who is dissatisfied with her life. There is a void she is trying to fill with evening poetry classes amongst pretentious soul-searchers. The only time we see her give way to uninhibited abandon is when she is dancing. At kindergarten one day, a 5-year-old boy named Yoav, (Avi Schnaidman,) goes into a spontaneous kind of trance. He starts to pace back and forth and then stops, declaring “I have a poem” which he begins to recite in a monotone. (These are the original poems written by Lapid as a child.) The vocabulary and subject matter are chillingly sophisticated. Because Yoav can’t articulate where his ideas have come from he appears as a child mystifyingly possessed.
Lapid wanted internationally acclaimed Israeli singer, Ester Rada for the role of Miri, the nanny in The Kindergarten Teacher, who writes down all of Yoav’s poems then uses them for her audition pieces. “I specifically wanted to have an Ethiopian cast in that role of a beautiful, albeit selfish, accomplished actress, says Lapid. Parts for Ethiopians in Israel are always stereotypes – poor or criminals,” he explains.
I ask Lapid if he has ever heard of the North American term ‘ helicopter parents’ in which parents swoop down and ‘hover’ to over-program their children, often fighting tooth and nail to just get them into the best pre-schools never mind colleges.
“My parents never put me in gifted programs in Israel, says Lapid. They were happy about the poetry but didn’t encourage me to become a poet in later life. They were content to see things develop naturally.”
Lapid does have a conscious memory of when he stopped writing poems. “It stemmed from the fact that by age seven, I realized somehow that writing poems was not compatible with being masculine. There was a measure of sensitivity and exposure I wanted to avoid. That whole chapter of my life was accompanied by a feeling of defeat,” he admits.
Interestingly, Lapid’s mother Era Lapid, is the editor of his film and I suggested that Freud would have a field day analyzing that. “Yes,” he laughs, “I guess he would. Working with any editor is always a close and deep relationship. My mother worked on my first feature film, Policeman and she is very direct and will always tell me the truth. It’s always difficult and much harder – I hadn’t thought about it in terms of The Kindergarten Teacher because it’s personal for her too, but I wonder if she also edited based on her own experience with me as a child?”
KINO LORBER presents The Kindergarten Teacher, A Film By Nadav Lapid in Hebrew with English subtitles opening in August/Sept/Oct. in NY, LA, Hollywood, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Miami Beach, Sante Fe, Toronto and Montreal.