Born in 1949, Margaret Lazarus was raised in Queens, the only child of two schoolteachers. She grew up with her immigrant grandparents nearby. Her grandmothers taught her to cook Jewish food, and her grandfather sometimes included her in his Workmen's Circle activities. Her parents, active in the teachers' union, were also involved in anti-racist work until the Ocean Hill-Brownsville School strike brought these causes into conflict. From her family's activism and approach to Judaism, Lazarus developed a Jewish identity based on values of social justice.
Lazarus attended Vassar College, where she pursued her interest in painting and art. Because she was concerned with the social content of art, she went to graduate school in Communications and Media at Boston University. At BU, Lazarus met Renner Wunderlich, her partner in life and in work. After early jobs producing public affairs segments on commercial television, Lazarus and Wunderlich formed their own independent film company so they could express their political views, uncensored. In 1973, they made their first film, "Taking Our Bodies Back," on the women's health movement. Feedback on this successful project led them to their next film, "Rape Culture."
In the past twenty-five years, they have pursued their political interests to make many documentary films on topics including: homophobia ("Pink Triangle"), images of women in the media ("Killing Us Softly," "Still Killing Us Softly," and "Beyond Killing Us Softly"), domestic violence ("Defending Our Lives"), trauma and recovery ("Strong at the Broken Places"), nuclear threat ("The Last Empire"), and the socialist leader Eugene Debs ("Eugene Debs and the American Movement"). In 1994, they won an Academy Award for "Defending Our Lives."
Lazarus runs a non-profit documentary film company, Cambridge Documentary Films and lives in Belmont, MA with Wunderlich and their two sons.