• Golden Globe Awards

Persian Lessons (Russia, Germany, Belarus)

Directed by Vadim Perelman and written by Ilya Zofin, Persian Lessons is a classic survivor story. Set in occupied France in 1942, Gilles (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) is arrested by SS soldiers alongside other Jews and sent to a camp in Germany. He narrowly avoids sudden execution by swearing to the guards that he is not Jewish, but Persian. This lie temporarily saves him, but Gilles gets assigned a life-or-death mission: to teach Farsi to Head of Camp Koch (Lars Eidinger), who dreams of opening a restaurant in Iran once the war is over.
Through an ingenious trick, Gilles manages to survive by inventing words of “Farsi” every day and teaching them to Koch. The relationship between the two men sparks the jealousy of other prisoners and SS guards, who take it out on Gilles. And while the suspicions of Koch grow every day, Gilles understands that he will not be able to keep his secret for very long.
Director Vadim Perelman says the film was inspired by true events. “Persian Lessons is based on a short story by Wolfgang Kohlhaase called ‘Erfindung einer Sprache’” he said. “There are hundreds of similar stories, in which wit and smart-thinking enabled people to survive. I would like to think that our film is a compilation of these. In fact, a friend of Wolfgang Kohlhaase told him a similar story some years after the war. But it only had some similarities. Kohlhaase’s adaptation used totally different detail. There are stories that are united in only one thing: they are insane, precisely because it required courage, luck, quick thinking and the help of individuals to escape the relentless pursuit of German fascists and their supporters.”
Memorizing a speech that doesn’t exist becomes a powerful metaphor for the need to preserve our collective memory of the Holocaust and World War II. Persian Lessons had its World Premiere at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival.