Monday, May 13, 2013

"A Teacher": a view of inappropriate behavior that takes itself for granted


I expected, when I went to see a festival screening (at the Maryland Film Festival)  of “A Teacher”, to see a story where a teacher engages a student with some truly ambiguous behavior, gets reported, and then gets fired, arrested, and taken through the criminal justice system, maybe even “treatment”.  That actually is necessary and interesting, as there are many issues to explore.
    
But, instead, the film takes for granted that passionate affairs, especially between female teachers and hormone-driven teenage boys, happen naturally.  As the film opens, 30-ish English teacher Dianna Watts (Lindsay Burge) is giving a quiz to her AP English class for seniors, and the kids act a little bratty.  Now, I’ve subbed before (in northern Virginia) and you just don’t encounter this in AP or Honors.  Soon, we’re seeing the relationship with Eric Tull (Will Brittain).
  
This all happens in and around Austin, TX, around Thanksgiving time, when the weather is still mild in central Texas.  Eric lives in an upper middle class home, and his Dad owns a Hill Country ranch, which Eric, at something like 17 or 18, already knows how to supervise.  So he is more like an adult already.  Dianna is more attached to the relationship than Eric, and when it unravels, so does she.  But this 80 minute film (looking quite grand in 2.35:1) shows us only the barest glimpse of the “justice” she will face.
  
In Texas, the age of consent is 17, but most states make it a crime for a public school teacher to have intimate relations with a student. 
   
I made the comment from the audience that the film was over the top, and that the justice issues could have been interesting if explored (as they would be by a journalist like, say, Chris Hansen), but the film director (Hannah Fidell) disagreed with me.  The audience (very full) seemed to “side” with her. 

I would have been interested in seeing how the relationship got started, not just asked to take it for granted. 
   
   
Fiddel’s site is here but is under development.
  
The picture is already distributed by Oscilloscope, which apparently took over distribution of films that used to be distributed by Warner Independent Pictures.
   
Visitors can read about my own experience tangential to this issue on my main blog (“BillBoushka”), entry July 27, 2007.  My own screenplay short is called "The Sub" and is now embebbed as a layer in a larger screenplay which I call "Do Ask Do Tell: A Manifesto".  
  
Also, compare to the Lifetime film “Student Seduction” (2003), reviewed here May 4, 2010.  

First picture: QA at festival;  third picture -- ranch country west of Austin, TX (mine, 2011 visit); fourth: West Potomac High School in northern VA;  minor incident occurred in 2005 when I was subbibg there.  

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