Actor, Writer and Comedian Mohamed Fellag

Featuring an Algerian immigrant teacher at a school in Montreal, dealing with difficult and heartbreaking circumstances, the film Monsieur Lazhar was written and directed by Canadian Philippe Falardeau and stars Algerian comedian and writer Mohamed Saïd Fellag. It premiered at the 2011 Locarno Film Festival before being screened in the ‘Spotlight’ category at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. As the entry for Canada, it was one of five Oscar nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards – the other nominations coming from Belgium, Germany, Israel and Poland.

The film deals with the difficult topic of tragedy from the perspective of children when an elementary school teacher in Montreal commits suicide. Brought in as a substitute teacher, Bachir Lazhar (played by Mohamed Fellag) rises above his own personal tragedy of the untimely death of his wife, and overcomes cultural barriers, to help his students through their grief. While being portrayed as fictional, Monsieur Lazhar highlights real social and economic issues, making it especially meaningful.

Born and raised in Azeffoun, in the Kabylie region of Algeria, Mohamed Saïd Fellag studied at the School of Dramatic Arts in Algiers for a period of time in the late 1960s, performing in various theaters throughout the country. In 1985 he joined the National Theater of Algeria, with his first performance being the principal role in L’Art de la Comédie, directed by Italian playwright, author and poet Eduardo De Filippo. In the mid to late 1980s, Fellag played in American writer Ray Bradbury’s Le Costume Blanc Couleur Glace á la Noix de Coco and developed his first one-man show Les Aventures de Tchop. Fellag continued to have success with his career through the following years, weathering the turbulence in Algeria through the late 1980s and early 1990s, but moved from Algeria to Tunisia and later to France following a bomb explosion during one of his performances in 1995.

His awards include the Prix du Syndicat de la Critique in 1998, as well as the Prix de la SACD de la Francophonie and Raymond Devos prize, both in 2003. In addition to the very successful Monsieur Lazhar, Mohamed Fellag has appeared in more than a dozen films, with his first being Liberté la nuit in 1983, and including De Hollywood á Tamanrasset, Fleurs de sang, Rue des figuiers, and The Rabbi’s Cat.