German filmmaker İlker Çatak‘s directed film “The Teacher’s Lounge” has won the inaugural Latin American Critics’ Award for European Films. Released in 2023, the film received numerous awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best International Film. Now, the film has been honored with another award, which was announced on Sunday, June 9, at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in Mexico.

İlker Çatak’s latest film adds another honor to its awards list

İlker Çatak is an acclaimed German director who is known for his incredible directorial projects like “Once Upon a Time… Indianerland,” “I Was, I Am, I Will Be,” and most recently, “The Teachers’ Lounge.” The latter established Çatak as a versatile and innovative filmmaker, and now “The Teachers’ Lounge” has won the inaugural Latin American Critics’ Award.

It is a German drama film directed by Çatak, who co-wrote the screenplay with Johannes Duncker. The film stars Leonie Benesch as a teacher tasked with finding out which of her students is responsible for a series of thefts. For this role, the actress earned the award for Best Performance in a Leading Role at the German Film Awards.

The official synopsis of the film reads: “Teacher Carla Nowak decides to get involved when one of her students is suspected of theft. Caught between her ideals and the school system, the consequences of her actions threaten to break her.”

The inspiration for the story came from a school visit to Istanbul, where Çatak and Duncker witnessed “these two boys in class that were actually stealing. And we all knew it, but nobody wanted to be the snitch. But at some point, the school found out and they came into the class, and it was kind of a trap for them, where they said,Girls — out. Boys — put your wallets on the table, and come to the front of the room.’ And they found all that money in their pockets. When we talked about it later, Johannes and I thought it could be a good kickoff for a story. And then Johannes told me a story about his sister, who’s a math teacher in Cologne Germany, who had a similar kind of thing going on with thefts. There was a secretary involved and all. What we thought was interesting is when a society, such as a school community, is being poisoned with all this speculation and these prejudices and stuff like that. We quickly realized that this could also be a film about our times, about the societies that we live in.”

Right after getting the idea for the film, Çatak began the production of the film, which was completed in three years. The filmmaker said in a statement, “It’s a great honor and pleasure to have received this award. I hope the film hits theaters very soon in Latin America. Lots of love to you and for the cinema!”

Guadalajara festival director Estrella Araiza said the award represented a synergy connecting “the Latin American perspective with European stories and modes of filmmaking, representing an enriching dialogue between two regions.”

Thirty-three film critics from 13 Latin American countries selected “The Teachers’ Lounge” from 23 nominated European films put forward by European Film Promotion, which set up the new LatAm Critics’ Award to boost the visibility of acclaimed European films in the Central and South American markets.

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