Yulia Vishnevets’ debut documentary feature, Hey! Teachers!, has a much better, more meaningful title in Russian: Katya and Vasya Go to School (Катя и Вася идут в школу).
The pop title in English – with its Pink Floyd overtones in a tagline reading: «Leave the kids alone?» – does no justice to the subtleties of the Russian title, which carries the sense that the learning curve for these two young Moscow intellectuals taking on a class of rough, tough teenagers in a grim industrial town, is going to be a steep one.
The hard clash with Russian reality comes from the very beginning of a film that starts out with a comic undertone: Katya goes to her hairdresser to change her hair colour from a punk mix of different colours to mousy brown.
Something of an introvert, Katya’s task is to impart the finer points of Russian literature and language to a group of kids who know how to swear, but little more.
Vasya, a more ebullient, extrovert character, who will teach geography, clearly has the measure of the group of attention-deficient striplings from the start: «Geography is not the most difficult subject. You don’t need to be super intelligent to understand it,» he tells his charges.
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