Teacher Irena

( Israel / 2010 )
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Russian born Irena immigrated to Israel with her son and husband who died shortly after. She faces the challenge of teaching the third grade in one of the most difficult neighbourhoods in Jerusalem where poverty, violence and unemployment are widespread. Using her unique approach, combining uncompromising discipline and love she propels a real change in the lives of her students.
Formats: Digital Copy, DVD
Running Time: 52 min.
Theme: Children, Education, Family, Gender, Immigration and Migration, Women, Youth
Language(s): Hebrew, Russian
Subtitles: English
Director(s): Itamar Chen
Producer(s): Naomi Levari, Saar Yogev
Cinematographer: Yossi Aviram
Editor(s): Arik Leibovitch
Teacher Irena


  • Irena prods and cajoles her students into mastering reading and math. At the same time she’s a formidable Red Army drill sergeant and a doting mother hen complimenting students, telling them how smart and wonderful they are with every correct answer they give or properly sharpened pencil they bring to class. The extreme combination gets results.
    The Assimilator
  • "Teacher Irena" tells of...teacher Irena, an extremely charismatic woman, who has only one thing in her life - an enormous amount of love for the children. A single parent, all she ever does, inside the school, and outside of school hours, is take care of the kids, coming from different backgrounds, and different social status. A moving film about an extraordinary woman.
    Israel Film Centre
  • Teacher Irena is a source of light and warmth – not the warm gentle glow of a flickering candle flame, but the fire that burns in the belly.
    Midnight East
  • While she cares for the children’s well-being in every possible way, she is a teacher first and she excels at getting these children, some of whom already have to work part-time, to learn. Radiating positive energy, she gives a math lesson, getting all the children to participate, correcting those who give wrong answers gently, praising any child who makes an effort. When the children are in class, it’s clear from their faces that they are concentrating and thinking. She teaches them “with a mixture of belief in them and love,” says Chen.
    Jerusalem Post

awards & accolades

  • DocAviv International Film Festival - Best Editing Award
  • Parnu Film Festival, Estonia - Grand Prize
  • - Israeli Academy award nominee

Festival participation

  • DocAviv International Film Festival 2010
  • Parnu Film Festival, Estonia 2010
  • Zagreb Jewish Film Festival 2011
  • Filmisreal Amersterdam 2011
  • New York Israeli Film Festival 2011
  • Reel Israel 2011
  • AICE Australia 2011
  • PKF Rome 2011
  • Winnipeg JFF CA 2012
  • PKF Venezia 2012
  • Zurich Israeli Doc Festival 2013

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Additional Info

Production Company: Black Sheep Productions
Distribution Company: Cinephil- World Sales

Teacher Irena

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