For better or worse, the teacher/classroom genre is a Hollywood staple. From "Dangerous Minds" and "Freedom Writers" to "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Dead Poets Society," these films follow a pretty standard plot formula time and time again (and often reap considerable box office and Oscar nominations anyway). But this weekend, Quebecois import "Monsieur Lazhar" -- fresh off an Oscar nomination -- transcends the genre with a moving, realistic take on student-teacher relations.
Directed by Philippe Falardeau, the film follows Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), an Algerian immigrant who is hired to replace a teacher at a Montreal elementary school who kills herself. Honest and sincere in a manner rare to its Hollywood counterparts, "Lazhar" is a powerful little film that effectively takes on a multitude of issues permeating today's society.
In honor of "Lazhar," Indiewire thought we'd offer 8 other recent teacher/student films that offer go beyond the genre's Hollywood limitations.
Student and teacher aren't exactly buddies in Alexander Payne's 1999 often brilliant political satire "Election." Set in a Nebraska high school, it follows frustrated civics teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) and his quest to bring down secretly vindictive overachiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) as she attempts to run for student body president. A considerable breakthrough for both Payne and Witherspoon, it arguably set them each on less interesting mainstream paths. But an easy reminder of their respective brilliance is clear in "Election." [Peter Knegt]
"Not One Less" (1999)
Before Zhang Yimou was directing the Olympic opening display, he was orchestrating high drama on a much smaller scale. The most beautiful of his 90's films, "Not One Less," is a minimalist morality tale with a teacher-student relationship unlike any other. When a rural school's teacher must leave town, the only substitute they can find is 13-year-old Wei, who has scarcely more education than the pupils themselves. The school is facing a disheartening rise in dropouts, so Wei must promise that when the teacher returns, there will be not one student less. When one student must migrate to the city, Wei follows him to bring him home. Here we've got an unusual story: It's hard to think of another film about the coming-of-age of a teacher rather than a student. [Austin Dale]