Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar

Film poster
Directed by Philippe Falardeau
Produced by Luc Déry
Kim McCraw
Screenplay by Philippe Falardeau
Story by Évelyne de la Chenelière
Starring Mohamed Fellag
Sophie Nélisse
Émilien Néron
Danielle Proulx
Brigitte Poupart
Jules Philip
Music by Martin Léon, Sherya Ghoshal
Cinematography Ronald Plante
Edited by Stéphane Lafleur
Microscope Productions
Les Films Seville Pictures
Distributed by Music Box Films
Christal Films
Arsenal Filmverleih
Agora Films
UGC International
Seville Pictures
A Contracorriente Films
Thim Film
Distribution Company
Release dates
  • 8 August 2011 (2011-08-08) (Locarno)
  • 11 September 2011 (2011-09-11) (TIFF)
Running time
94 minutes
Country Canada
Language French
Box office $6.6 million[1]

Monsieur Lazhar is a 2011 Canadian French-language drama film directed by Philippe Falardeau. The screenplay was developed from Bashir Lazhar, a one-character play by Évelyne de la Chenelière.[2] The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards. The film was released theatrically in the United States on 13 April 2012 by distributor Music Box Films.


In Montreal, an elementary school teacher hangs herself. Bashir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, then offers his services to replace her, claiming to have taught in his home country. Desperate to fill the position, the principal takes him at his word and gives him the job. He gets to know his students despite the cultural gap evident from the very first day of class and despite his difficulty adapting to the school system's constraints. As the children try to move on from their former teacher's suicide, nobody at the school is aware of Bashir's painful past, or his precarious status as a refugee. His wife, who was a teacher and writer, died along with the couple's daughter and son in an arson attack. The murderers were angered by her last book, in which she pointed a finger at those responsible for the country's reconciliation, which had led to the liberation of many perpetrators of huge crimes. The film goes on to explore Bashir's relationships with the students and faculty, and how the students come to grips with their former teacher's suicide. One student, Alice, writes an assignment on the death of their teacher, revealing the deep pain and confusion felt by each of the students.

Bashir eventually comes to be loved and respected by the students he is teaching, but the teacher's death still haunts the students. During a school dance, a student named Simon is found to have a photo of his former teacher. It is revealed that he tried to get her into trouble after she tried to help him through his family struggles. Bashir eventually gets the students to open up about the death, especially Simon, who is blamed (and blames himself) for causing the teacher's suicide. Eventually, some parents discover that Bashir has no teaching qualification; previously, he had run a restaurant. He is then fired from the school. He asks the principal to be able to teach one more day, convincing her by noting that the old teacher never got to say goodbye to her students. On his last day, Bashir has his students correct a fable he wrote which is a metaphor of his tragic past life in Algeria and the loss of his family in a fire. Before he leaves, one of his students, Alice (whom he professed to be his favourite to her mother) gives him a tearful hug goodbye.



There were 28 days of shooting, about an average time for a film to be shot in Quebec. The principal filming occurred in the summer so the production could use the school and so the educations of the child actors were not disrupted. Four of the shooting days occurred in the winter.[3]


Box office

Monsieur Lazhar grossed $2,009,517 in North America and $4,572,398 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $6,581,915.[1]

Critical response

The film received a very high critical acclaim. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 97%, based on 110 reviews and an average rating of 8.1/10.[4] It also has a score of 83 on Metacritic based on 31 reviews.[5] Critic Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post called the film one of the ten best of 2012.[6]


The film was selected as the Canadian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards,[7] and on 18 January 2012, it was named as one of the nine shortlisted entries for the Oscars.[8] Six days later, the film was named as one of the five nominees.[9] Alongside the Polish-Canadian co-production In Darkness, which was submitted and nominated on behalf of Poland, the two films marked the first time in the history of Canadian cinema that two films with Canadian connections were finalists for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in the same year.[10] It is also the second consecutive year that a Canadian film in French was nominated in this category, following the nomination of Denis Villeneuve's Incendies at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Monsieur Lazhar was the most rewarded film at Quebec's own Jutra Film Awards, winning seven out of nine categories for which it was nominated, a finalist in the most categories at the Jutra awards.[11] It also won the City of Toronto Award as the Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.[12][13]

It additionally earned nine nominations at Canada's Genie Awards, with the nominations honouring the film itself, the cast's acting performance, the cinematography, the costumes, the direction, the editing, the overall sound, and the musical score, with a total of eight nominations,[14] eventually holding the highest number of wins in the competition, gaining six Genie Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Achievement in Direction, and Achievement in Editing.[15] Sophie Nélisse, 11 years old, became the youngest Genie winner in the history of the award ceremony (Nina Petronzio was also 11 years old when she was nominated for Best Actress for Vincent and Me in 1991).[16] In August, at the 64th Locarno International Film Festival, Monsieur Lazhar won the Variety Piazza Grande Award, given in recognition of a premiering work's artistic qualities and commercial viability (potential for theatrical release) by a jury of several American movie critics, as well as the UBS Audience Award, decided by the viewing audiences present at the festival.[17] At the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Philippe Falardeau won the UPS Audience Award, worth €10,000, as the filmmaker of the film in official selection that received the highest polls from audiences. In March 2013, Emilien Neron and Sophie Nélisse were both nominated for Young Artist Awards as Best Young Actor in an International Feature Film and Best Young Actress in an International Feature Film respectively.[18]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Monsieur Lazhar (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  2. "Bashir Lazhar a powerful portrait of immigrant experience". Edmonton Journal. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  3. "Director Philippe Falardeau Monsieur Lazhar Interview." (Archive) Collider. Retrieved on 5 January 2013.
  4. "Monsieur Lazhar (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  5. "Monsieur Lazhar". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  6. Hornaday, Ann (7 December 2012). "Ann Hornaday's ten best films of 2012". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  7. "Canada taps Monsieur Lazhar for Oscar race". CBC. 21 September 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
  8. "9 Foreign Language Films Vie for Oscar". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  9. "Oscars 2012: Nominees in full". BBC. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  10. "Canadian roots grow at Oscars". The Chronicle-Herald, 17 February 2012.
  11. "Monsieur Lazhar takes 7 Jutra Awards". CBC News. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  12. "TIFF: Awards 2011". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  13. "63 Countries Vie for 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  14. Stroumboulopoulos, G. Genie nominations, CBC News. 17 January 2012.
  15. Johnson, B. D. (8 March 2012). "Monsieur Lazhar sweeps the Genies". Macleans. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  16. "Monsieur Lazhar wins 6 Genies". CBC News. 8 March 2012.
  17. "Telefilm Canada announces that Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar is Canada's selection for the 2012 Oscars". CNW Telbec, Canada Newswire. 21 September 2011.
  18. "34th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 31 March 2013.
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