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Holocaust Drama ‘Persian Lessons’ Sold to Infotainment for China

Persian Lessons Russian Cinema
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

Independent distribution company Infotainment China has acquired the China rights to the buzzy Holocaust film “Persian Lessons,” which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival last week.

The firm has also acquired the Juliette Binoche-starring French title “How to Be a Good Wife” and Australian thriller “Black Water: Abyss.”  But its representatives were unable to see screenings of any of the three films in Berlin this year, as they were forced to cancel their attendance of the festival and market due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We regret that we missed the screenings for ‘Persian Lessons’ and the two other films we bought. Nevertheless, our team still continues to buy films at home, and continue to find high-quality films suitable for the Chinese market,” said CEO Cindy Lin, speaking from Beijing.

Directed by the Oscar-nominated, Ukraine-born Vadim Perelman and starring German arthouse mainstay Lars Eidinger (whose “My Little Sister” also premiered at Berlin in competition) and Argentinian Nahuel Perez Biscayart (“120 Beats per Minute”), the film premiered as a Berlinale Special Gala on February 22. It tells the story of a Belgian Jew who pretends to be Persian in order to avoid execution. He is then taken to give Farsi lessons to a Nazi officer who coincidentally has been searching for someone to teach him the tongue, and is forced to make up the language in order to survive.

Cohen Media Group holds North American rights and plans to release the film in late 2020. It was produced by Moscow-based Hype Film (“Leto”), co-produced by Berlin-based LM Media and One Two Films in association with Belarusfilm.

Variety’s Peter Debruge said in his review that the title “could be a formidable contender on the American awards front,” and in particular featured a great turn from Biscayart, who “delivers one of the most deeply identifiable Holocaust-centered performances since Adrien Brody appeared in ‘The Pianist’ nearly two decades earlier.”

Lin said she felt the film’s emotional intensity would make it particularly attractive to a Chinese audience.

“The dramatic conflict created by the relationship between the characters of ‘Persian Lessons’ evokes real emotional and concern in its audience. I believe my viewers will remain worried about the leading actor right up until the end,” she said.

She added: “The story highlights the beauty of humanity that persists even in the face of brutality. This is our mission as a distributor: to remind today’s audiences that amidst life’s cruelties, films can bring you a bit of beauty and a bit of light.”