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Why Shoot the Teacher?

(Pitié pour le prof!)

Year: 1976
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 99 min
Director: Silvio Narizzano
Producer: Lawrence Hertzog
Executive Producer: Fil Fraser
Writer: James DeFelice, Max Braithwaite
Cinematographer: Marc Champion
Editor: Stan Cole, Max Benedict
Sound: Richard Lightstone
Music: Ricky Hyslop
Cast: John Friesen, Gary Reineke, Chris Wiggins, Samantha Eggar, Michael Reynolds, Kenneth Griffith, Scott Swan, Bud Cort
Production Company: W.S.T.T. Ltd., Fraser Films Ltd., Lancer Teleproductions
Why Shoot the Teacher relates the frustrating Depression-era plight of Max Brown (Bud Cort),a shy young teacher from the East who faces a particularly gruelling first assignment: educating a motley crew of farmers’ kids in a ramshackle one-room schoolhouse in the remote town of Willowgreen, Saskatchewan. Mistrusted by the parents and alienated from his pupils, Max is further stymied by the wicked prairie winter, which holes him up in his tiny, trembling shack like a stranded, bespectacled gopher. Max’s only friend is Alice Field (Samantha Eggar), an English war bride who shares his interests in poetry, theatre and films. Their friendship grows, but the relationship is halted by Alice’s austere husband (Michael J. Reynolds). Gradually, Max finds ways of surviving in this alien environment and finally earns the respect of the children and their parents.

This good-humoured, anecdotal account of a young man’s adjustment to the realities of life is at its best when sketching the details of character (especially that of Alice Field) and mood, but too often the film lapses into farce or mawkish sentimentality. It was released around the same time as Allan King’s Who Has Seen the Wind (1977), a similar film dealing with life on the prairies during the dirty thirties. Why Shoot the Teacher was screened at the Festival de Cannes and had an extensive commercial release in Canada and abroad. It won a Genie Award for Adapted Screenplay (James DeFelice) and earned the Golden Reel Award for highest box-office receipts.

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