Persian Lessons

1942. Gilles, a young Belgian man, is arrested by the SS alongside other Jews and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. He narrowly avoids execution by swearing to the guards that he is not Jewish, but Persian. This lie temporarily saves him, but then Gilles is assigned a seemingly untenable mission: to teach Farsi to Koch, the officer in charge of the camp’s kitchen, who dreams of opening a restaurant in Iran once the war is over. Gilles finds himself having to invent a language he doesn’t know, word by word. As the unusual relationship between the two men begins to incite jealousy and suspicion, Gilles becomes acutely aware that one false move could expose his swindle. Filmmaker Vadim Perelman directs this gripping drama with a slick, assured hand. Persian Lessons achieves that rare feat of maintaining a fine balance between a respectful account of the horrors of the Shoah, and a sense of irony that may be one of the keys to surviving such madness.
by Vadim Perelman
with Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Lars Eidinger, Jonas Nay, Leonie Benesch, Alexander Beyer, David Schütter, Luisa-Celine Gaffron, Guiseppe Schillaci, Antonin Chalon, Mehdi Rahim-Silvioli
Russian Federation / Germany / Belarus 2019 German, French, Italian, English 127’ Colour World premiere Rating R12


  • Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (Gilles)
  • Lars Eidinger (Chef)
  • Jonas Nay (Max)
  • Leonie Benesch (Elsa)
  • Alexander Beyer (Commander)
  • David Schütter (Paul)
  • Luisa-Celine Gaffron (Yana)
  • Guiseppe Schillaci (Marco)
  • Antonin Chalon (Jacob)
  • Mehdi Rahim-Silvioli (Nathan)


Director Vadim Perelman
Screenplay Ilya Zofin
Cinematography Vladislav Opelyants
Editing Vessela Martschewski
Music Evgueni Galperine
Sound Design Boris Voyt
Production Design Dmitry Tatarnikov
Costumes Alexey Kamyshov
Make-Up Ekaterina Odintsova
Assistant Directors Alexey Smolyar
Casting Asya Smekalova
Production Manager Irina Ragozina
Producers Ilya Stewart, Murad Osmann, Pavel Burya, Ilya Zofin, Rauf Atamalibekov, Timur Bekmambetov, Vadim Perelman
Co-Producer Sol Bondy
Co-Production One Two Films Berlin
, with the support of Belarusfilm with the support of Belarusfilm

Vadim Perelman

He began his career directing commercials and music videos. His debut feature film, House of Sand and Fog, was nominated for three Academy Awards. Like his second feature The Life Before Her Eyes (which starred Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood), the film was also a literary adaptation. In addition, he works for leading US and Russian television companies.


2003 House of Sand and Fog (Haus aus Sand und Nebel) 2007 The Life Before Her Eyes (Das Leben vor meinen Augen) 2013 Pepel (Ashes); TV Mini series 2015 Izmeny (Adultery); TV mini series 2018 Kupi menya (Buy Me) 2019 Persian Lessons

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020