Award-winning filmmaker Philippe Falardeau was recently included on Variety’s 2012 list of 10 Directors to Watch. Known for La Moitié Gauche du Frigo (The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge), Congorama, and C’est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure! (It’s Not Me, I Swear!), his fourth feature film, Monsieur Lazhar, is an adaptation of the play Bachir Lazhar by Montreal playwright Évelyne de la Chenelière. The film, which was a 2011 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, tells the story of an Algerian immigrant (Mohamed Fellag) who learns of the death of an elementary school teacher and offers his services as a substitute teacher.
We sat down at a roundtable interview with Falardeau to talk about what inspired him to make a film set in a school community about children dealing with issues of loss and death. He told us why he thought the character of Bachir Lazhar was rich enough for a movie, how the story was more interesting told through the eyes of an immigrant who comes from a different background, and what it is about words and communication that helps us go through dramatic moments. He also discussed the politics of immigration, the education system, the importance of cinema to a national identity and a national culture, and why it’s important to allow every teacher to invest something of themselves into their class.