The Kindergarten Teacher director talks about autobiographical inspirations, working with his mother, and his new film in Paris.
Nadav Lapid’s sophomore feature The Kindergarten Teacher, a 2014 Cannes Critics’ Week entry, follows a kindergarten teacher who discovers in a five year-old child a prodigious gift for poetry.
Amazed and inspired by the young boy, she decides to protect his talent in spite of criticism and disapproval from others.
The film marks a significant deviation from Lapid’s acclaimed debut Policeman, which was about a member of an Israeli anti-terrorist unit who clashes with a group of young radicals.
Inspiration for the new story initially came from the 38-year-old writer-director’s own childhood: “There are autobiographical roots to the film. The poems in the film are the same poems I recited as a kid between the ages of 4 and 6 and a half. And then when I was 6 and a half I quit. I never wrote another one poem in my life. But more than that I think I was fascinated by the complicated relationship between poetry or art and our wider world.”
While Lapid’s subject matter and focus has shifted significantly on his second film his intensity and moral seriousness remain: “In Policeman, there was a question and doubt over who the good guys and bad guys are. Some people feel closer to one group, others to the other group. Likewise, when we showed Kindergarten Teacher at Cannes I was surprised by the variety of responses to the lead character’s actions.”
Another constant is his continued collaboration with his mother, the established film editor Era Lapid. Is it an easy collaboration? “Getting to the essence of things is in a way easier with somebody who already knows you in an intimate way, such as your mother. From time to time it can complicate things, for sure, but in a good way. It’s not always so easy to have the final say when you’re working with your mother but I think in the end that adds to the nuance of the final piece.”
Next up Lapid will change tack again with his first French-language film, an “existentialist comedy” about an Israeli man’s experience in Paris, which he hopes to shoot next year.
It too will draw on personal experience to an extent after Lapid spent time in France while developing his debut feature Policeman at Cannes’ Cinefondation Residence.
“I’m very excited about the challenge of filming in Paris and putting my own look to a city that has been shot thousands of times before,” he says.
The Kindergarten Teacher screens on Tuesday at the Jerusalem Film Festival; United King will release in Israel at the end of the year.