Monsieur Lazhar

Year: 2011
Country: Canada
Running time: 94 mins
Censor Rating: M - adult themes

Producers: Luc Déry, Kim McCraw
Screenplay: Philippe Falardeau. Based on the play by Évelyne de la Chenelière
Photography: Ronald Plante
Editor: Stéphane Lafleur
Production designer: Emmanuel Fréchette
Costume designer: Francesca Chamberland
Music: Martin Léon
In French, Arabic and English, with English subtitles

With: Fellag (Bachir Lazhar), Sophie Nélisse (Alice), Émilien Néron (Simon), Danielle Proulx (Mrs Vaillancourt), Brigitte Poupart (Claire), Louis Champagne (janitor), Jules Philip (Gaston), Francine Ruel (Mrs Dumas), Sophie Sanscartier (Audrée), Seddik Benslimane (Abdelmalek)

Festivals: Locarno, Toronto 2011; Sundance, Rotterdam 2012

Best Canadian Feature, Toronto International Film Festival 2011
Nominated Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards 2012

This film is preceded by the short film Lambs which is rated RP13 violence, drug use, offensive language. RP-rated films mean it is illegal to show or sell this to someone under 13 years of age unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

A guardian is considered to be a responsible adult (18 years and over), for example, a family member or teacher who can provide guidance. For more information on censorship classifications please visit the website for Film and Literature Classification

An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and deserving winner of every key Canadian film award this year, Monsieur Lazhar is a sensitively understated teacher/student drama that accumulates surprising affirmative emotional power. Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant in Montreal, is a mysterious, high-minded, rather old-fashioned individual who puts himself forward as a substitute after the tragic death of a popular teacher. The children have been left traumatised and Lazhar addresses their distress, delicately, but in much more direct terms than the school authorities and some parents deem appropriate. Though secure in his convictions, he’s no crusading hero, still harbouring trauma of his own and evading close scrutiny from his fellow teachers. This is not a film with villains, but it generates aching sympathy for Lazhar's transgressions of accepted form. Basing his script on a one-man stage play by Évelyne de la Chenelière (who has a cameo as a mother in the movie) director Phillippe Falardeau draws flawlessly nuanced performances from actor Fellag and from young Émilien Néron and Sophie Nélisse as the two children most in need of intervention, one craving it, the other avoiding it at all costs. — BG 

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, NY Times

NZIFF STAFF PICK: Sharon Byrne, Rebecca McMillan, Taylor Sanders

To view this movie you must have Adobe Flash Player version 9 or higher and javascript turned on.