It was a match made in heaven. French international sales agent Reel Suspects, headed up by Matteo Lovadina and specialising in “elevated genre” – in other words, genre works that go beyond out-and-out genre and have a whiff of arthouse cinema about them – has added The Teacher [+] by Denis Dercourt to its slate. Clearly, Dercourt is a filmmaker who is out of the ordinary, and this is evident from both his personal life (he is a Sciences-Po graduate and a viola teacher at the Conservatoire de Strasbourg, and he left to live and work in Germany, etc) and his professional career (he dips his toe into various different genres, and flits between virtually self-produced titles and big mainstream movies).

Having been selected twice for Un Certain Regard at Cannes (with The Page Turner [+] in 2006 and Tomorrow at Dawn [+] in 2009), Dercourt will unveil his eighth feature at the Marché du Film (which will unspool from 14-23 May as an integral part of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival). This is also his second film produced entirely by Germany, following 2013’s Zum Geburtstag (Pour ton anniversaire) [+].

The story, written by the director himself, is set in Berlin, where a young migrant wants to learn how to converse in German. The teacher he gets in touch with uses a peculiar new method. The first topic she wants him to talk about is: “Yesterday my dog was killed; today we will kill somebody.” But as the lessons progress, the student starts to feel more and more committed… The cast is toplined by Julia Franzke and Olivier Dovergne.

Denis Dercourt (who recently directed the first five episodes of the French-German series Deutsch-les-Landes for Amazon Prime) has let slip a few clues about what inspired his new opus: “During the winter of 2015, in Berlin, where I live, the first waves of refugees started to arrive from the Bavarian border, in order to be sent on to different centres across the city. In the evenings, the men would come out in spite of the cold. In general, they would be in small groups, but there were also some who wandered through the deserted streets on their own. When you bumped into them, they gave you the impression that they were trapped in a living nightmare. During the day, these men had to follow German-language courses, where they were also taught some basic knowledge of German culture. As I began to envisage the film, it was clear that I was going to be playing with these more or less explicit references that we were asking the migrants to get to grips with: the music of Wagner and Strauss, the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales and so on.” Interestingly, the filmmaker also cites Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom as a reference.

Produced by Jan Waterloo for Cinema Alexanderplatz, The Teacher boasts a score composed by Jérôme Lemonnier. The film will be distributed in France on 5 June, courtesy of Vendredi Distribution.

At the Marché du Film, Reel Suspects will also be pre-selling the feature Invisible [+] by Lithuania’s Ignas Jonynas (who turned heads with The Gambler [+]), which is in post-production, and will have high hopes for the market premiere of the Russian horror film Why Don’t You Just Die! [+] by Kirill Sokolov (premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival), while also pressing on with sales for Love Me Not [+] by Spaniard Lluís Miñarro and The Mute [+] by Poland’s Bartosz Konopka.