Monsieur Lazhar, by Québec filmmaker Philippe Falardeau, is a sensitive, intelligent and especially moving work whose story revolves around the cultural gap that all immigrants must pass through on arrival in their new country. Coming to Québec after tragic circumstances that took place in his native Algeria, Lazhar offers his services as a substitute teacher to an elementary school in Montréal. Subsequent to the death of their teacher, the students welcome him with a grain of scepticism and curiosity. He is struck by the sadness and heavy consequences that the children are suffering through the loss of their teacher, yet surrounded by a somewhat overwhelmed school team, Lazhar manages to carve a place for himself in the small world of his class and the Québécois society.
Adapted from the celebrated work by playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière, the film stars the incomparable Algerian actor, Fellag, whose nuanced yet restrained performance brings a unique dimension to Lazhar's character. Danielle Proulx excels as the school director, and of particular note is the outstanding work of the children in the class, especially Sophie Nélisse and Émilien Néron.
Acclaimed by the Québec public and international audiences, the film Monsieur Lazhar has merited numerous prizes: the Audience prize and the Variety Piazza award at the Locarno festival; the Audience prize and Special Jury Prize at the Namur Francophone Film Festival; Best Canadian Film at the Toronto International Film Festival (special presentation); winner at the Atlantic Film Festival, and Filmfest Hamburg; Best screenplay and Fipresci Prize at the Valladolid (Spain) International Film Festival. In addition, the film was nominated for a 2012 Oscar, representing Canada in the Best Foreign Language Film category.