Education and Early Career
After studying political science and international relations at the University of Ottawa, Philippe Falardeau was selected as a contestant for the TV show La Course destination monde (1993). Falardeau and the other contestants were required to travel the world, making 20 short films in six months. He won the competition as well as an award from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
In 1997, he directed the National Film Board (NFB) film Pâté chinois, about Chinese immigration to Canada It was presented at the Montreal World Film Festival that year and won the Best Screenplay Award at the Yorkton Film Festival.
La Moitié gauche du frigo (2000)
In 2000, Falardeau began his career as a feature film director with La Moitié gauche du frigo (The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge), for which he also wrote the screenplay. A playful social satire about a political activist who makes a documentary about his roommate’s search for employment, La Moitié gauche du frigo offers sharp commentary on the emerging effects of globalization. The film was shown internationally and won many awards, including the City TV Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Claude Jutra Award (now the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature) at the 2001 Genie Awards. Falardeau also earned Prix Jutra (now Prix Iris) nominations for Best Direction and Best Screenplay.
In 2006, Falardeau directed Congorama, a Canada-France-Belgium coproduction about a Belgian inventor who discovers he was adopted and travels to Quebec to find his biological relatives. It premiered as the closing night film at the Cannes Film Festival and opened the Montréal World Film Festival. The film stood out for its originality and received generally positive reviews. The Georgia Straight’s Mark Harris wrote that, “There's no denying that Congorama is a slight movie, but this slightness is mixed with a cleverness that occasionally borders on brilliance.” The movie was named Best Canadian Feature at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax and won a Genie Award for Best Original Screenplay. It also won [EE1] the 2007 Prix Jutra (now Prix Iris), including Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director.
C'est pas moi je le jure! (2008)
Falardeau followed Congorama with the equally successful C'est pas moi je le jure! (It’s not Me, I Swear!, 2008), which he adapted from a Bruno Hébert novel. A comedic drama about a 10-year-old boy who runs wild when his mother runs off to Greece for the summer, the film screened in over 40 countries and won a dozen international awards, including the Grand Prize at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Canadian Feature at the Atlantic Film Festival. It also drew favourable comparisons to Jean-Claude Lauzon’s acclaimed coming-of-age film, Léolo (1992). As Brian D. Johnson wrote in Maclean’s magazine, “It’s not as ambitious in its vision or its virtuosity as Lauzon’s masterpiece, but on some level it seems to come from the same place, reminding us what is so special about Quebec cinema.”
Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Falardeau enjoyed his greatest critical and commercial success to date with the highly acclaimed Monsieur Lazhar (2011), which he adapted from Evelyne de La Chenelière’s one-man play, Bachir Lazhar. The film tells the story of an Algerian immigrant in Montreal, an elementary school substitute teacher who is working to rebuild his life and adjust to a new country after a tragedy in his homeland. He proves to be instrumental in helping his new pupils adjust to the tragic suicide of their former teacher.
A bittersweet story told with sensitivity and restraint, Monsieur Lazhar won the hearts of audiences and critics alike. Edgar Chaput of Sound on Sight wrote, “Falardeau’s film is sophisticated in its approach for dealing with a multitude of terrifyingly sensitive subjects… it broaches these topics with a touch of class and intelligence, revealing a sense of maturity that should be a prerequisite for any movie tackling these ideas.” The Globe and Mail’s Jennie Punter called it “an exquisite, humanistic and subtly topical work of cinema” that “artfully takes you through a breadth of human experience.”
Monsieur Lazhar won many awards at festivals worldwide, including Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF, best film at the Locarno and Valladolid film festivals, the audience award at the Rotterdam, Locarno, Sydney and Washington, D.C., film festivals, and critics’ prizes at the Hong Kong and Valladolid film festivals. It was named the Best Canadian Film of 2011 by the Toronto Film Critics Association and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won six Genie Awards and seven Prix Jutra (now Prix Iris), including awards for best film, best direction and best screenplay at both galas.
Falardeau then joined the ranks of fellow Québécois directors Jean-Marc Vallée and Denis Villeneuve by directing his first Hollywood film, The Good Lie (2014), produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. A story of three Sudanese refugees who are assisted by an employment agency worker (Reese Witherspoon) as they attempt to start new lives in Kansas City, the film drew generally good reviews. The New York Times’ Stephen Holden wrote that it “has a core of decency, humanity and good will that feels authentic,” while Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty called the film “a deeply touching story about survival, perseverance, and hope,” and commended Falardeau for not telling the story of Black characters “through the lens of a white movie star.”
Falardeau followed that modest success with Chuck (2017), a sports movie about professional boxer Chuck Wepner — the inspiration for the character of Rocky Balboa. Starring Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and screened at TIFF. It received generally positive reviews on its commercial release, with the Hollywood Reporter calling it an “unpretentious but gently affecting biopic.”
Guibord s'en va-t-en guerre (2015)
In between those two Hollywood efforts, Falardeau returned to French-language features and social satire with Guibord s'en va-t-en guerre (My Internship in Canada, 2015), a political comedy about a Haitian immigrant who assists a Quebec Member of Parliament (Patrick Huard) as he prepares to cast the deciding vote on a proposed military engagement. The film received a special jury citation at TIFF as well as Canadian Screen Award nominations for Best Motion Picture and Original Screenplay. It also won Prix Jutra for Best Supporting Actor and Best Score.
It was announced in May 2018 that Falardeau would write and direct an adaptation of Joanna Rakoff’s novel My Salinger Year, about a college student who works as an assistant to famed author J.D. Salinger. The film is to be produced by Luc Déry and Kim McCraw.
- Claude Jutra Award (La Moitié gauche du frigo) (2001)
- Best Original Screenplay (Congorama) (2007)
- Best Adapted Screenplay (Monsieur Lazhar) (2012)
- Best Achievement in Direction (Monsieur Lazhar) (2012)
- Best Director (Congorama) (2007)
- Best Screenplay (Monsieur Lazhar) (2012)
- Best Direction (Monsieur Lazhar) (2012)
- Best International Motion Picture (Monsieur Lazhar) (2013)
- Best Canadian First Feature Film La Moitié gauche du frigo) (2000)
- Best Canadian Feature Film (Monsieur Lazhar) (2011)
- Special Jury Citation – Best Canadian Feature Film (Guibord s'en va-t-en guerre) (2015)
- Special Jury Prize (Congorama), London Canadian Film Festival (2007)
- Canadian Award (C'est pas moi je le jure!), Atlantic Film Festival (2008)
- Grand Prix (C'est pas moi je le jure!), Berlin International Film Festival (2009)
- Crystal Bear (C'est pas moi je le jure!), Berlin International Film Festival (2009)
- Variety Piazza Grande Award (Monsieur Lazhar), Locarno International Film Festival (2011)
- Audience Award (Monsieur Lazhar), Locarno International Film Festival (2011)
- Best Screenplay (Monsieur Lazhar), Valladolid International Film Festival (2011)
- Best Film (Monsieur Lazhar), Valladolid International Film Festival (2011)
- Director to Watch (Monsieur Lazhar), Palm Springs International Film Festival (2012)
- SIGNIS Award (Monsieur Lazhar), Hong Kong International Film Festival (2012)
- Best Screenplay (Monsieur Lazhar), RiverRun International Film Festival (2012)
- Best Narrative Feature (Monsieur Lazhar), RiverRun International Film Festival (2012)
- Audience Award (Monsieur Lazhar), Rotterdam International Film Festival (2012)
- Best Feature Film (Monsieur Lazhar), Washington DC Filmfest (2012)
- Special Jury Prize (The Good Lie), Deauville Film Festival (2014)
- Best Feature Film (The Good Lie), Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival (2015)