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Writer/Director Statement

Kimberly Kalaja is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, director, author, & Fulbright.

Her award-winning plays include Night Moths on the Wing, “The Shooter,” & “Acts Without Words.”  She is the author of Reading Games (Dalkey Archive Press, 2007), a philosophical consideration of game theory in the production of Art. "The Lesson" is her début film.


She earned her BA in English from Scripps College, an MA in Irish Writing from The Queen’s University of Belfast, and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. She taught literature for over two decades at Princeton, NYU, The University of Tirana (Albania) and has worked with incarcerated students across the United States.

I believe stories are the foundations of identities, that they have the uncanny power to shape our realities, and are one of the most powerful means of connecting people. 
The inspiration behind "The Lesson" was my dad, who, for as long as I can remember has told us, “anything worth having is worth protecting.” This heartfelt belief was at the root of his support for gun ownership. I wanted to write a story powerful enough to show anyone who shares his beliefs that however different our choices are, we share common ground: we love our families and want to protect them; we fear the ever-increasing violence that plagues our nation; we want safe streets, and secure homes. All that really separates any of us is how we choose to respond to the uncertainties of this world.  

To this end,  "The Lesson" reframes the dialogue about guns in America – away from the guns – and focuses instead on the human needs & emotions that perpetuate violence. It is aimed at two groups of people – those who would consider buying a gun for self-defense, and those who would never buy a gun under any circumstances.

This film is vigilantly nonpartisan.
Genuine dialogue demands we set politics aside, and get to the roots of our shared humanity. 

This film will not tell you which choices you should make. It will ask which choices are right for you.

I will view the film as a success if it is able to bridge the empathy gap. I hope it inspires emotionally safe and respectful conversations between those who might otherwise believe they have nothing in common. We are one. 

As our country seems increasingly fractured, as more and more of us experience violence first-hand, and many of us feel more isolated, defensive, and cautious than ever, this film is an exploration of how every choice we make as individuals resonates in and impacts the world around us. Our choices define us, and knowing yourself is the first step to making the choices that are right for you and yours.

Kimberly Kalaja 

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