The visual metaphor in the opening scenes of “HaMorah Irena” (“Teacher Irena”), the Ophir Award-nominated documentary about a teacher in the poorest neighborhood of West Jerusalem, tells you everything you need to know about this exceptionally devoted educator. However, you don’t know that until you come to the end of the film.
In “Teacher Irena,” screening October 2 at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Calif., debut director Itamar Chen deftly condenses the educator’s year with her third grade class into 52 minutes. The film is short as documentary features go, but it conveys the long journey that Irena takes with her underprivileged, at-risk students.
Chen’s choice to eschew third-person narration, and never have Irena speak directly to the camera, paints a portrait of a woman who ably helps her students succeed while failing herself in important ways.