“The Artist” salvages Jewish pride at Oscars

“The Artist” staring Jean Dujardin, left, as George Valentin and Bérénice Bejo as Pepper Miller.


The film won five Oscars for best picture, director, actor, costume design and original musical score at the ceremony at Kodak Theater Sunday night.

Director Michel Hazanavicius is a French Jew, whose parents and grandparents survived the Nazi occupation by hiding in the French countryside.

Producer Thomas Langmann is the son of famed French director Claude Berri, whose parents were East European Jews and whose first film, “Two of Us,” dealt with a French Jewish boy hiding from the Nazis.

In addition, veteran Woody Allen won the golden statuette – as always in absentia – for his original screenplay for “Midnight in Paris.”

The Iranian entry, “A Separation,” won the Oscar for best foreign-language film, beating out four other films including Israel’s contender, “Footnote,” which depicted the rivalry between a father and son, both Talmudic scholars, and Poland’s “In Darkness,” a Holocaust-era film about a dozen Jews hiding in underground sewers during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

An Israeli movie has made the elite list of five Oscar finalists in four of the last five years, but without garnering the top prize.

Director-writer Asghar Farhadi of “A Separation,” which centered on the conflict of a husband and wife in a complex and difficult society, struck a note of international conciliation in his acceptance speech.

He spoke of his country’s “rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics” and of his countrymen as “people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.

 In a backstage interview, Farhadi heaped special praise on Poland’s Agnieszka Holland, the half-Jewish director of the Holocaust-themed “In Darkness,” describing her as “a great director, a great filmmaker and a great human being.”

A Sunday night viewing party hosted by the Israeli consulate and the Israel Leadership Council brought together some 200 Israelis at an L.A.-area hotel, and while guests acknowledged some sense of disappointment at the Oscar outcome, most tried to look at the bright side.

Israeli Consul-General David Siegel noted that Israeli movies and television programs were showing the world that “Israel is not just about conflict but has become a fountainhead of creative talent… We’re now the people of the book and of the film.”

Documentary filmmaker Dan Katzir sounded a similar note of optimism, observing that “with each year, Israel gets closer to winning an Oscar.”