Finland/Estonia/Germany, 2017, 99 min, 2K DCP, Dir. Klaus Härö, Not Rated, Estonian, Russian and Armenian with English Subtitles, CFI Releasing
"The inspirational-teacher gets an effective, sober-minded iteration in The Fencer, a well-acted, smoothly crafted drama that tells a story of cross-generational bonding in the face of historical oppression." – Justin Chang, Variety
An elite Estonian fencer hiding from Stalin's secret police in the 1950s finds safe haven working as a teacher in a remote village, but his rapport with the students in his fencing club arouses the jealousy of the school's principal and jeopardizes his safety. Based on the true life story of Endel Nelis, The Fencer is an affecting portrait of a decent man who risks his life to uphold a bond of trust with his students. Comparisons abound. Time Out's David Clack calls it "School of Rock with swords instead of guitars." Though squarely in the tradition of Dead Poets Society and Bad News Bears, the film offers higher stakes and, consequently, a bigger payoff. This is classic filmmaking of the highest order. Finland's eminent director Klaus Härö elicits fine performances all around, especially from his child actors, and Tuomo Hutri's cinematography is gorgeous. The Fencer was a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Film and Finland's official selection to the Oscars.