If you're looking for an upset contender in your local Oscar pool (or HitFix's Oscar pool where you can win $300 worth of movie tickets) you might look no further than best foreign language film.
Out of the five nominees, the longtime favorite has been the critically lauded "A Separation" from Iran, but as many Academy Awards observers will tell you its the film that moves the membership the most that usually wins. Recent examples including "The Secret in their Eyes" "upsetting" "A Prophet" in 2010 or "Nowhere in Africa" surprising over Zhang Yimou's "Hero" in 2003. This year, if "A Separation" is going to lose it will be at the hands of either Agnieska Holland's WWII-themed "In Darkness" from Poland or Philippe Falardeau's "Monsieur Lazhar" from Canada. The latter won the Best Canadian Feature Film Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment (granted seven reviews, but they are key critics).
"Lazhar" takes place in Montreal where a middle school is still reeling from the suicide of their teacher during the school day. Mr. Lazhar (a fine Mohamed Fellag), an Algerian immigrant, offers his services as a substitute teacher having convinced the principal he previously taught overseas. Lazhar tries to bring a more conservative teaching style to his class than his predecessor, but he finds the students charming him more than he expected. Things become tenuous when Lazhar's past comes to light and he faces possible deportation.
Music Box picked up domestic rights to the Oscar contender and have provided Awards Campaign with the exclusive first look at the film's U.S. poster (below). With an Oscar win or just nominee buzz, Music Box no doubt hopes it can do strong art house business with a film tailor made for adult audiences.
Do you think "Lazhar" can top "A Separation" for the best foreign language film Oscar? Share your thoughts below.
"Monsieur Lazhar" opens in limited release in April.
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