Genuine warmth in classroom-bonding French flick

Last updated 12:00 29/11/2012
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ECCENTRIC TEACHER: Mohamed Fellag stars as Bachir Lazhar in Monsieur Lazhar.

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REVIEW: Monsieur Lazhar
M, 1hr 34min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.

It took a year but at last this highly endearing French Canadian movie has stopped off at Cinema Gold.

An emotional story about classroom bonding with an eccentric teacher, it deservedly was one of five finalists for the foreign film category in the Academy Awards last year.

That is some sort of indication because the excellent Iranian movie A Separation won the Oscar. But the dreadful Israeli dirge Footnote was another of the finalists.

Monsieur Lazhar has way more merit than being a footnote, coming as it does from the producers of another excellent Frenchie we saw at Cinema Gold, Incendies.

Set in a public grade school in freezing, snowy, Montreal, this drama, adapted from a play, left almost everyone who was there with genuine warmth.

Bachir Lazhar is a 55-year-old immigrant from Algeria who has a devil of a job convincing the authorities he is not a terrorist. Remember former Palmerston North resident Ahmed Zaoui who went through the same nonsense in New Zealand?

Anyway, Bachir, played by a fella called Mohamed Fellag, an Algerian actor-comedian, arrives to replace a teacher who has died suddenly. Of course, the kids are too young for such hurt and Lazhar must win them around.

All right, it is far from an intricate plot but it is very French, sad, happy, full of compassion. Les Quebecois seem more Fwench than the French.

Maybe it's the French lingo but the kids are cute; so talented as actors. There's the mix most classes have: The nerds, bright sparks, a North African immigrant boy, the bullied and the brats.

I recommend Monsieur Lazhar to all educators, parents who roll up to give teachers a hard time, Francophiles, and those who admire political incorrectness.

At our screening there was a sizeable group of les francais in the congregation who signalled the funny bits quicker than we could decipher the sub-titles.

This film showed good can come from grief.

It was a slow movie which passed way too quickly.

And would I see it again? Oui, oui, oui! Tre bien!

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- Manawatu Standard

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