The Academy Award nominated Philippe Falardeau film “Monsieur Lazhar” (Rated PG-13, French with English subtitles), the story of an Algerian immigrant substitute teacher who brings emotional stability to a Montreal middle school class shaken by the suicide of their well-liked teacher, is now playing at the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown Minneapolis.
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.
After studying Canadian politics at the University of Ottawa and international relations at the University Laval in Quebec City, Philippe Falardeau was chosen as a contestant for the 1993 edition of the television series La Course Destination Monde (a contest where the participants tour the world making short films). While there, he directed 20 films and ended up winning the race as well as the IDRC Award (International Development Research Center of Canada).