| This sweet, little film written and directed by Philippe Falardeau explores the dynamics of the teacher-student relationship. It was the official Oscar entry from Canada for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards.
At a Montreal middle school, Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), a 55-year old Algerian immigrant with hidden grief of his own, is hired to replace a well-liked teacher who committed suicide in her classroom.
Lazhar brings stability and emotional support to his 11 and 12-year-old students having a tough time dealing with death, sadness and grief.
Simon (Emilien Neron) and Alice (Sophie Nelisse), two charismatic pupils, are particularly affected by their teacherís death.
While the traumatized class goes through the healing process, nobody is aware of Lazharís painful past and the ongoing judicial hearing in which he is seeking political asylum. He is unable to sleep burdened with his own nightmares. He fears being deported back to Algeria where torture and death await him.
The movie is adapted from a stage play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere. It depicts the encounter between two distant worlds and the power of self-expression.
Falardeau is a socially engaged filmmaker utilizing great sensitivity and humor in following a humble man who is ready to transcend his own personal loss in order to shepherd children beyond the silence and taboo of death.
This moving film features exquisite performances by Fellag and a stunning ensemble of child actors. The movie also gets high marks in cinematography, sound, original musical score and editing.
The movie premiered at the 2011 Locarno Film Festival. It was also shown at the prestigious Toronto and Sundance festivals. It won six Genies (the Canadian equivalent of the Academy Awards), including Best Motion Picture, Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (Fellag).
This triumph of the human spirit will stay with you long after the lights come up.
The dialogue is in French with easy-to-read English subtitles. It is now playing exclusively for a limited engagement at Glenwood Red Bridge and the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"