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Philippe Falardeau, 2011
Canada | French with English subtitles | 94 minutes
In Montreal, an elementary school teacher dies abruptly. Having learned of the incident in the newspaper, Bachir Lazhar (Fellag), a 55-year-old Algerian immigrant, goes to the school to offer his services as a substitute teacher. Quickly hired to replace the deceased, he finds himself in an establishment in crisis, while going through his own personal tragedy.
The cultural gap between Bachir and his class is made immediately apparent when he gives them a dictation exercise that is beyond their reach. Little by little, Bachir learns to better know this group of shaken but endearing kids, among whom are Alice and Simon, two charismatic pupils particularly affected by their teacher's death. While the class goes through the healing process, nobody in the school is aware of Bachir's painful past; nor do they suspect that he is at risk of being deported at any moment.
Adapted from "Bashir Lazhar," a play by Evelyne de la Chenelière, Monsieur Lazhar depicts the encounter between two distant worlds and the power of self-expression. After Congorama and It's Not Me, I Swear!, Philippe Falardeau returns to the socially engaged filmmaking that marked his beginnings with The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge. Using great sensitivity and humor, the filmmaker follows a humble man who is ready to transcend his own loss in order to accompany children beyond the silence and taboo of death.
Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Winner of six Genie Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Philippe Falardeau), Best Actor (Fellag), Best Supporting Actress (Sophie Nélisse), and Best Adapted Screenplay.
"Monsieur Lazhar sustains an exquisite balance between grown-up and child’s-eye views of education, teacher-student relations and peer-group interactions. The students come quirkily alive in superb naturalistic performances devoid of cuteness and stereotyping. Like no other film about middle school life that I can recall 'Monsieur Lazhar' conveys the intensity and the fragility of these classroom bonds and the mutual trust they require." —Stephen Holden, The New York Times
“Simple but eloquent, disturbing but humorous, and always gripping.” —Rex Reed, NY Observer
“Like a dedicated teacher, this is a film that stays with you.” —Kyle Smith, New York Post
“Transcendent” —Karen Durbin, Elle Magazine