The documentary Teach' by Alex Brendea is one of the most awarded Romanian documentaries in the last few years
The documentary Teach' by Alex Brendea, one of the most awarded Romanian documentaries in the last few years, was launched in early October in movie theaters, but had its drive-in cinema premiere recently. It tells the story of Dorin Ionita, a mathematics teacher in the city of Bistrita who breaks out of the regular education system, starting his own private class in his own home. His greatest dream is to have a school that does not conform to traditional education, a place free of the tyranny of conventional teaching methods. The movie won the 2019 Best Central and Eastern European Documentary in the Between the Seas section of the International Documentary Film Festival in Jihlava, in the Czech Republic. It also won the award for best film in the Romanian competition at the 2019 Astra Film Festival. The premiere had been scheduled for May, but the pandemic delayed it. However, even before the Romanian premiere, Teach' had a few screenings for an audience, such as the one at the Czech Center in New York, at the third edition of the Jihlava International Documentary Festival, and the TIFF, where it sold out. The audience had the opportunity to meet in person Dorin Ionita, the charismatic teacher in the movie, in the Q&A sessions.
Alex Brendea told us about the screening that took place in the town of Bistrita, home of the actual teacher:
“I was great, because at least in Cluj and in Bistrita we were playing a home game, so to say. At the movie theater in Bistrita we announced two screenings, but then we had to add more. For instance, one day we were supposed to have a single showing of the movie, but we ended up with three. After that, upon audience demand, the managers of the theater scheduled three more days of screenings. That was a pleasant surprise, because the movie ended up being shown in both movie theaters in Bistrita, and a lot of people showed up to see it. Also, the other thing that made me happy was the fact that lots of teachers showed up with their students. It made me happy because we are talking about a documentary, which is a bit of a niche genre. However, it seems that in this case the topic of the film and the main character helped a lot. We are in a time when a lot is being discussed about education, and the way the system works in Romania, a lot of parents are quite upset at the things that don't work. A lot of parents came to me after watching the movie, people who want to have around more teachers like Dorin Ionita. We had some great reactions, I met lots of teachers who had seen to movie, and they talked to me about their innovative or original ideas about education. They told me how they were thwarted by the bureaucracy, or by lack of interest. One of these teachers teaches geography, and she wanted to build a virtual platform, where they wanted to teach forms of relief using 3D graphics, which seems like a great idea. In Cluj, I met a teacher who told me that I had managed, with this documentary, to bring up an alternative to the present system of education, said he was glad he saw the movie, he told me he really enjoyed it, and was inspired by it. What I wanted to do first and foremost with this movie was to sound an alarm, and try to inspire more teachers to follow their dreams in the wish to do something better for their students.”
Having a lot of experience as a cinematography director, Alex Brendea belives that documentary offers him more freedom than fiction films:
“Somehow, the documentary needs this freedom, because it is not backed by a script, and that is why you don't know what kind of framing or lighting you will have in the next sequence. I am intrigued by that, because I have to find solutions, and to react quickly to those situations. There is a way in which the documentary takes more of a toll during shooting, but compared to fiction film, it takes less preparation. In the case of fiction, finding the best framing and lighting takes places ahead of time, and during shooting you come with your homework done. For documentaries you have to be freer to find solutions on the spot.”
One of the awards received by the movie Teach' was the 2019 Best Central and Eastern European Documentary in the Between the Seas section of the International Documentary Film Festival in Jihlava, in the Czech Republic. The reason provided by the jury was 'This is an important film that has to be seen by people. A mathematics teacher works on the fringes of a failed system of education, and he becomes the mentor of a group of students. By his dedication towards education, he teaches the students the most important lesson in life: You have to tragically fall in love with what you do'. For its celebration of the unconventional, for embracing disorder, imagination, and passion for education, the Between the Seas award goes to the movie Teach'.'