If the long-followed saga of Mary Kay Letourneau is any indicator, America’s twisted fascination with attractive women school teachers having affairs with their younger male students is far from over. Enter A Teacher.
The indie film directed and written by Hannah Fidell premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which runs from Jan. 17-27, in the forward-thinking Next category, and stars pretty, fresh-faced Lindsay Burdge as a Texas high school teacher who begins a relationship with her student, played by Will Brittain. Check out this exclusive trailer for the movie, below. Burdge blushes like, well, a teenager, Brittain struts around and tells her, “Take off your clothes,” and then things take a turn to the obsessive side. Bad bad teacher.
Both Burdge and Fidell reflected about school and sexuality to EW, and that fine line between a harmless crush, and dangerously acting on it.
“I read case studies of teachers who’d had affairs and gotten away with it, which was great for looking at the underlying psychology of these women and the specific trajectory of a student-teacher relationship,” Burdge said. “When I think back on my years in school, it’s the classes that were just a little sexy that I remember the best. And I watched real teachers use sexuality well — as just another tool in their arsenal. The tricky task for the teacher, and anyone else playing with power, I think, is to have healthy boundaries, and that’s where the story gets really interesting for me, when the boundaries are a little too fluid, and lines that are in place for a reason are crossed.”
Fidell said she wouldn’t let herself read up on any particular known female teacher-male student stories. She, like Burdge, looked at case studies and profiles.
“I wanted to really go at it from the starting point of ‘what would have to happen for me to get myself into that sort of situation,'” Fidell said. “I did do some research on the psychological profiles of women who end up having sex with their students, but I can’t emphasize enough that no one particular story was the basis for the film. While writing, I spent a few days in a high school classroom, observing some friends who are teachers just as a way to remember how teachers and their students interact. All of these girls were fawning over one particular friend of mine who was fresh out of grad school, which was just fascinating to watch.”
But A Teacher, in ways, still reflects those publicized stories she didn’t let herself research, as well as the experience of people she herself knew. Sexuality having the potential to be complicated, messy, and emotionally fraught.
“It wasn’t until after we finished shooting that I started seeing how close we had gotten to a few of the recent ‘outbreaks,'” she said. “I showed a very rough cut to another filmmaker early on and she started crying afterwards, saying that she had had a relationship with her English teacher in high school and that many of the events that happened in my film had happened to her. I think it was more than a little startling for me to realize how easy it could potentially be to cross that line.”
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