No longer silent - 'The Artist' director is son of Shoah survivors

By Jennifer Lipman, March 1, 2012
Michel Hazanavicius won Best Director for his award-strewn movie

Michel Hazanavicius won Best Director for his award-strewn movie

Who knew? This year's golden boy of the Oscars is the Jewish son of Holocaust survivors who hid from the Nazis in the French woodlands. Michel Hazanavicius, and his silent film, The Artist, took home the Oscar for Best Director, as well as awards for Best Picture and Best Actor for its star, Jean Dujardin.

Mr Hazanavicius, 44, is best known in France for a spoof spy film, but his next project will draw more on his own family's history. His parents and grandparents were forced into hiding when the Nazis occupied France, while relatives were sent to concentration camps.

He is planning to remake a 1948 Swiss film about a concentration camp survivor who is searching for his mother in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

The French filmmaker triumphed in the category over Woody Allen, whose film Midnight in Paris won the award for Best Original Screenplay.

Sacha Baron Cohen, meanwhile, caused a scene even before the Academy Awards officially began last week, arriving on the red carpet in the military get-up of his latest screen persona.

Sacha Baron Cohen: urned some publicity

Sacha Baron Cohen: urned some publicity

The comedian, whose role in Hugo helped the film to awards in five categories, had earlier been threatened with a ban by Oscar organisers after he pledged to attend as General Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya from his forthcoming spoof, The Dictator. He had been warned that the ceremony was "not about stunting" and told to come in civilian dress.

The character, described as a combination of Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi, complained that he was being treated badly by "the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Zionists" and called for the "sanctions" on him to be lifted.

Mr Baron Cohen, 40, ignored the warnings and arrived in character, flanked by two women and carrying an urn.

He said that the urn contained former Korean despot Kim Jong II's ashes - then proceeded to spill them over the unimpressed presenter Ryan Seacrest. "It was Kim's dream to be sprinkled over the red carpet and over Halle Berry's chest," he said.

Mr Baron Cohen was removed from the red carpet by security guards.

Jewish screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was unable to replicate his success at the 2011 Oscars. His sports film, Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and nominated in six categories, won nothing.

Israeli director Joseph Cedar whose film, Footnote, portrays tensions between a father-and- son pair of talmudic scholars, also left empty-handed, conceding the Best Foreign Language Film award to Iran's Asghar Farhadi.

The two filmmakers put aside political differences and sat next to each other for a panel event on Saturday before the ceremony. Mr Cedar, an Orthodox Jew, walked two miles to be there and declined to have a microphone pinned on him.

In a declaration suited to a Sacha Baron Cohen film, Mr Farhadi's success was greeted by an Iranian official as a victory over the "Zionist regime".

Last updated: 3:25pm, March 1 2012