Synopsis: The story is set in Montreal, where the beloved teacher of a Year 6 class has abruptly passed away. Having learned of the incident in the newspaper, Bachir Lazhar (Fellag), a 55 year-old Algerian immigrant, makes his way to the school and offers his services as a substitute teacher. He’s in the right place at the right time, and is quickly hired to fill in.
The substantial cultural gap between Lazhar and his new class is immediately apparent, but little by little, Lazhar comes to understand this motley but endearing group, among whom are Alice (Sophie Nélisse) and Simon (Émilien Néron), two charismatic pupils particularly affected by their teacher’s passing. Yet while the class begins to heal, nobody in the school is aware of Lazhar’s painful past; nor do they suspect that his own place in the world is in jeopardy.
Starring: Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nélisse and Émilien Néron
Director: Philippe Falardeau
Writer: Philippe Falardeau
Australian Distributor: Palace Films
Release Date: 6 September 2012
Verdict: Delicate piano and school choir singing bring a particular brevity to this piece. It is slightly reminiscent of the documentary To Be and To Have, except in feature form.