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Slamdance 2019 Review: “This Teacher” (2018) ★★


Films are meant to touch our hearts, make us angry, and if necessary it should force us to dive into a deep analysis of life and even its purpose. Overall, films are an excellent way to put yourself into fairly inexpensive therapy some can really enjoy. Not sure if Mark Jackson can play any role on such a large scale, but in a very limited way he could. But whether it is a good or a bad thing I am yet to decide. But I hope after you watch it, you can help me to understand it better.

The narrative is very simple. Hafsia (Hafsia Harzi) comes to New York to spend her vacation with her childhood friend, Zahra (Sarah Kazemy), who now likes to be called  Sarah because it’s easier, as per her explanation. However, right from the first day, strange things start happening to Hafsia due to the state of her mind. She is clearly emotionally unstable, has anger issues, but more importantly, she has issues we don’t know about but we will at some point over the course of the events that occur in the film.

Sarah is a former nurse now turned into an actress. She seems to be happy with where she is right now unlike Hafsia, who is in complete shock after seeing a character change in her childhood friend. She dances a modern dance and drinks alcohol. In other words, she does what she would not be allowed to do if she was around her conservative and deeply religious family. While this might just be a speculation and we know nothing about Sarah or Zahra’s past, however, after the chat between Sarah and Hafsia, it appears the two have more to hide than to reveal to the world.

While Sarah’s character all of a sudden disappears to reappear towards the end, to express how tired she is of Hafsia and to remind her about their toxic relationship, Hafsia, on the other hand is in full speed turning into a mad woman whose mind is darker than we can imagine. While she was on speaking terms with Sarah, Hafsia takes Sarah’s identity and rents out a cabin in a remote place to enjoy the wilderness. Her frequent walks to the wood is atmospheric, dark, and always accompanied by an individual that we never see but is well heard and visible in Hafsia’s mind.

You see, there’s a lot which can be written about “This Teacher”, whether how awful it was or how intriguing it was at some point, before it started losing its audience. The problem is, with so much potential, the film uses Hafsia’s character as a young Muslim woman who does not have bad intentions in her mind. But as soon as she gets tipsy after drinking alcohol with her neighbors, she becomes obsessive with her religion or how the people can be scared of her just because she is Muslim.

The entire film had nothing to do with Hafsia being a Muslim, and if it was, the expectation was that we will learn more about Sarah and Hafsia’s relationship and why Sarah all of a sudden distances herself from a friend she invited to visit in New York. That said, the screenplay co-written by Mark Jackson and Dana Thomson combines three different important subject matters in one film but sadly never reaches its logical conclusion.

In conclusion, “This Teacher” is not that bad. In fact, it has some good points. But those points won’t make any difference after the screen fades to dark. And that’s the saddest part of it. The entire one hour and half was interesting and engaging and we wish to see more, but by the time when it ends, you will be like, “what was that?” Again, this might be my take only and I accept that yours can be way different from mine, and I truly hope you will enjoy it more than I did. Or, at least, find a better explanation to what I failed to find.

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