The WWII drama, which world premiered at the Berlin Film Festival this year, stars Nahuel Perez Biscayart (“Beats Per Minute”) as a Belgian Jew who narrowly avoids execution by a Nazi firing squad when he claims to be Persian. Desperate to save himself, he offers to teach Farsi — a language he does not know — to the head of the camp, played by German star Lars Eidinger (“Clouds of Sils Maria”).
Perelman (“House of Sand and Fog”) directed from a script by Ilya Zofin, based on the story “Erfindung Einer Sprache” by Wolfgang Kohlhaase. “Persian Lessons” is produced by Moscow-based Hype Film (“Leto”) and co-produced by Berlin-based LM Media and One Two Films in association with Belarusfilm. Memento Films International is handling world sales.
“The film is especially important and relevant in our time,” said Perelman. “It tells a profoundly powerful, heartbreaking story that is infused with tragedy, irony, the kindling of hope and friendship among the unlikeliest in the unlikeliest circumstances. I am honored and pleased with the opportunity to widen the worldwide audience and fans of the film.”
The film’s producers are Perelman, Zofin, Pavel Burya, Timur Bekmambetov, Rauf Atamalibekov, Murad Osmann and Ilya Stewart. Osmann and Stewart met German co-producers Sol Bondy and Jamila Wenske at a Variety “10 Producers to Watch” event in Cannes in 2018, and decided soon after to collaborate on the project.
“We are very proud that the film, which we shot entirely in Belarus and co-produced with Belarusfilm, is the country’s submission for the Academy Awards,” said Stewart, founder of Hype Film. “During this extremely difficult year, in which the film started its journey at the last major film festival to take place before the pandemic and was so well received, we remain optimistic that Vadim Perelman’s unique vision based on Ilya Zofin’s brilliant script will eventually reach an international audience.”
“Persian Lessons” was released this September by Alamode Films Distribution in Germany, where it grossed €500,000 ($599,000) with theaters operating at 30% capacity before being shuttered by that country’s latest coronavirus lockdown. The film will be released in the U.S. next year by Cohen Media Group, and across all major European territories in the first quarter of 2021.
A shortlist of 10 films for the international feature film category will be unveiled on Feb. 9, and the five official nominees will be announced on March 15. The 93rd annual Academy Awards will take place on April 25.