News from the Locarno Festival

Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar



Everything starts with two words written on a blackboard: Monsieur Lazhar, the name of the new Algerian primary school teacher who hides a painful past and his condition of political refugee to everyone; on the other side of the fence, a class which is embarking on a long healing process after the suicide of Marine, their ex-teacher.

A double level of narration which is only apparently balanced, since  most part of the scenes take place in the class. “It was intended” claims director Philippe Falardeau, “because there are many movies which offer a political vision on immigration. In my film this situation is part of Bachir's background but it does not represent a label at the eyes of the children, they don’t have racial prejudices. He is simply a man.”

Bachir manages to develop his own way to communicate with the class in spite of their parents' anxieties, the advices of a psychologist and the limitations given by regulations. “In Canada, some of these rules about avoiding physical contact are crazy. I understand why they exist, but I do not agree. This is why I introduced in the movie a subplot which binds Marine and a child.” Always preserving his shyness and refinement, Bachir transforms his cold and almost aseptic class into a place where trust and solidarity can arise between scholars, exorcizing at the same time his and their personal fears. “Everything” the director continues “is based on the sense of foreignness and otherness that the children feel towards their new teacher and Bachir himself feels towards them.”

Adapted from the play written by Éveline de la Chenelière, Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar shows the same attitude of its main character through mellow storytelling without particular stresses, a wise cinematography and the great performances of its actors which perfectly and realistically represent the long healing process that permits the class to ride out of the trauma. “I wanted natural lighting for the scenes” Falardeau concludes. “I don’t have children, but I had no problems communicating with kids, because they were old enough to understand the psychology of their characters. And they helped me in making the script and its dialogues more realistic!”

Olivier Père, Mattia Bertoldi

Follow us