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Did you know? French film to win most Oscars is silent

French films do not often make it to the Oscars, facing stiff opposition from the Anglophone world of cinema, but in, 2012 Best Picture, director and actor was awarded to The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin.

It won five Oscars that year, sharing top place with Martin Scorsese’s 3D film Hugo. It has won the most awards of any French film, both at home and abroad including seven BAFTAs, two Golden Globes and six Césars, the French national film awards.

The Artist is a comedy and romance movie about an old silent film actor who falls in love with a young dancer at the time when the industry was moving towards “talkies”. It is in black and white. Perhaps part of its success is due to the fact that it is also silent, with no French dialogue.

Statistics suggest that only 23% of the UK population speak French, and that number lessens to fewer than 1% in American, which can make the average French film an intimidating leisure activity for native English speakers.

Because The Artist is a silent film, it is viewed the same way regardless of the audience’s language, allowing everyone to connect with the film in the same way.

France works hard to promote its film industry abroad and has an organisation, UniFrance, to do so. It was founded in 1949 and is managed by the Centre National de la Cinématographie.

It is an association which has nearly 1,000 members including producers, directors, actors, exporters and sales agents.

Every year it publishes a report on how well France did that year; 2012 was the best ever. As well as The Artist, there was also The Intouchables, a comedy drama about a quadriplegic and his carer which touched millions at home and abroad; and an English language French produced action thriller, Taken 2.

UniFrance is hoping that 2019 will be a good year, and is putting its hopes on what it says will be some promising box office hits, including Astérix: The Secret of the Magic Potion (pictured left), which is already out in some countries, and sequels to popular films such as Tanguy is Back and Serial Bad Weddings 2.

In 2018, Western Europe was the leading region for the export of French films, with Italy in top place. The best-selling films abroad were Taxi 5, Le Sens de la Fête, La Ch’tite Famille and Belle et Sébastien 3.

Lost in Frenchlation, a Parisian cultural association, has found its own way to overcome language barriers. It holds screenings of French films with English subtitles, bridging the gap between French cinema and English speakers.

See lostinfrenchlation.com for upcoming events.

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