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Local producer's film gets Sundance Festival love

Lorraine Graves   Jan-30-2018

Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in The Kindergarten Teacher.


There’s a buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and it has a local angle.

Of the thousands of films sent in, only 110 end up in the competition.

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The Kindergarten Teacher, a feature film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, is one of that select group and the film has a Richmond connection. Steveston’s Gabriel Napora is one of the executive producers of the project having its world premier at the festival.

“Sundance is the most prestigious of film festivals—Sundance or Cannes—in the world and we’re one of about 14,000 films that was chosen to be in the festival and we’re up for the grand jury prize,” said Napora as he arrived in Park City, Utah for the festival.

The Kindergarten Teacher is one of only 10 films nominated for the US Dramatic Competition.

Asked about his role in the production, Napora said: “I’m one of the executive producers and our production company, Imagination Park, is one of production companies involved.”

An executive producer deals with the financing of the film.

It was a project that Napora had faith in from the beginning: “I was both an investor in the film myself and also someone who sourced out money.”

The Kindergarten Teacher is based on a successful Hebrew language production out of Israel.

It is the story of a New York teacher who discovers what may be a gifted five-year-old student in her class. As she becomes fascinated and obsessed with the child, she spirals downward on a dangerous and desperate path in order to nurture the talent she feels he has.

Asked why he supported this film, Napora said: “We loved the script. We thought the story was amazing. We loved the producers and just thought it was something that really excited us.”

Asked about why it can lead to more vivid movies when the writer/adapter is the same person as the director, Napora reflects, “When it is the case, if you’ve got a very talented writer-director, the film becomes a very singular vision of what they want.”

Investing in a film always carries some financial risk. Was Napora worried this time?

“Not so much because I knew the people involved and how skilled they are, so I felt really good in terms of getting involved just because of all the players. It was a no brainer for me.”

The film hopes to enter other competitions, like the Oscars this coming year. Those entry eligibilities are based on the year the production is first shown. For The Kindergarten Teacher, that will be 2018. That would make this film eligible for the 2019 Academy Awards.

Vancouver, once a backwater of production, has made a name for itself, gaining a full palette of talent, locations, skilled workers and support industries.

“I think it’s starting to change. Vancouver is predominantly a service industry. But now, I think there are people coming out of Vancouver who are making their mark on the world stage. We want to be guys winning top awards.”

If the buzz at Sundance is any indication, Napora and the people at Imagination Park are well on their way with The Kindergarten Teacher.

“We certainly got involved in a project we thought was amazing,” he says.


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