by Joseph Berger
It was late December, and Journalism Professor Barry Lazar had a lot on
Arguing with a German library about the cost of rights for photographs
in Clara, Lazar began, referring to his latest film, delaying
writing a book on Montreal food for an American publisher for which I
have already accepted and spent a royalty advance, preparing a proposal
on the Montreal cartoonists [Serge] Chapleau and Aislin for the CBC and
NFB, making sure I have enough Hanukkah candles for the rest of the week,
and hoping I can get time to do about 40 laps sometime today.
Lazar, a journalistic jack-of-all-trades, began instructing part-time
at Concordia five years ago, teaching Public Affairs Broadcasting. Last
summer, he introduced a course in Literary Journalism that is being offered
this winter. I approach the task of organizing my courses with great
trepidation, almost like going on air, he said. All teachers
are vampires. We feed on the energy that good students radiate.
In addition to teaching, Lazar produces documentary films with his partner
of six years, Gary Beitel. The duos latest release, My Dear Clara,
is the latest offering from a team that has put forth films about Santropol
Roulants meals-on-wheels program (Bittersweet Deliveries),
palliative care (Endnotes) and more.
My Dear Clara is a love story shaped by Canadian immigration
policies during World War II, explained Lazar, adding that the film
has been received superbly.
Making a film takes about two years for the duo, and is by nature a collaborative
effort, though Lazar and Beitel have stuck to basic roles. While Beitel
has directed all of their films, Lazar has handled production, including
financing and administrative issues. For their current project, theyve
switched jobs, nothing new to Lazar.
Lazars career began after he tried his hand at various odd jobs
once out of school. Before landing a research gig at the CBC, he dabbled
in teaching English to French high-school students, trying to sell
insurance, and running a restaurant. To this day, food is a very
important part of Lazars career.
I remain intrigued at how Montreals many different cultures
express themselves through cooking, Lazar said.Food is the
easiest way to get to know someone. Did you know that in Chinese the greeting
for How are you is expressed as Have you eaten yet?
After he coauthored The Guide to Ethnic Montreal in 1994, The
Gazette offered Lazar, a frequent freelancer, a weekly column. Eventually,
his column evolved to Flavour of the Week, a food column that
traced the origins and uses of exotic tastes. Recently, the Saturday column
morphed into Taste of the World, giving Lazar the arduous
task of hunting down the citys finest takeout each week.
Students, like journalism major Michael Citrome, find that Lazars
background enhances his classes.
He doesnt lecture for two hours, said Citrome, who studied
with Lazar last semester. Hes had a unique career so he tries
to create a unique classroom by letting the students participation
orient the discussion.
I really have just one objective, Lazar insisted. Make
students excited about what they are doing and able to do it better.