Mr Bachmann and His Class

Director Maria Speth / 2021 / Germany

Winner of the Berlinale’s Silver Bear Jury Prize and first ever Audience Award, this sprawling, tender documentary captures the inspiring relationship between an unorthodox German schoolteacher and his culturally diverse teenage class.

With his woolly beanie, AC/DC T-shirt and guitar, high school teacher Dieter Bachmann might sound like a German version of Jack Black’s Dewey Finn (School of Rock). In reality, this 65-year-old veteran of the Georg Büchner School in Stadtallendorf is nearing retirement, and the students who comprise his eclectic class are first- or second-generation immigrants from a variety of religious backgrounds and countries as far-reaching as Turkey, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Brazil.

Unfolding over an absorbing, Frederick Wiseman–esque three-and-a-half hours, Maria Speth’s affectionate and sharp-eyed documentary follows Herr Bachmann and his adolescent wards over a school year, evoking a deep empathy for the migrant experience. It’s a real-life feel-good portrait that will restore your faith in the potential of learning to encourage collaboration, fun and expression – and, yes, teacher and students do perform their own inspired versions of Jolene, Smoke on the Water and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

“Effortlessly absorbing … In its sap-free way, the film is a comfort, an inspiring testament to the way the right teacher at the right time might be one of life’s greatest gifts.” – Hollywood Reporter

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