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Writer/Director Statement

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 is at the root of his support for gun ownership. I wanted to write a story powerful enough to show him that however different our choices have been, 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 us is how we have chosen to respond to the uncertainties of this world.  
This film is for anyone who – like me – has friends and family members whom we love deeply, but who hold very different beliefs. And it is especially for those of us who fear that expressing our beliefs will drive away those we love. I will view the film as a success if it is able to bridge the empathy gap; it is not an ideological piece, but an emotional one. Genuine dialogue demands we set politics aside, and get to the roots of our shared humanity. 
The Lesson reframes the dialogue about guns in America – away from the guns – and focuses instead on the human emotions that perpetuate the cycle of 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. I hope it inspires safe and respectful conversations between those who might otherwise believe they have nothing in common.
I wanted the viewer to be inside the head of a person who chooses to buy a gun, to understand that she might be reasonable and rational, even if fear and vulnerability drive her choices. And of course, I also want viewers to understand why, in the end, she makes the choice she makes. One challenge in writing the script was to remain vigilantly nonpartisan. This film does not tell people what they should do, but hopes to inspire viewers to think about the power each of us has to determine our own lives. As our country becomes more and more 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 our private decisions really do matter, how every choice we make as individuals resonates in and impacts the world around us. And we are accountable for every choice we make. 

Kimberly Kalaja 

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