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Documentary on Oldest Holocaust Survivor Wins Oscar a Week After Her Death

March 3, 2014 By:
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Alice Herz-Sommer, who recently died, is the subject of Oscar-winning documentary "The Lady in Number 6." Photo from JTA.

Jews brought home several statuettes from the 86th Academy Awards, mainly in the less glamorous, behind-the-scenes categories.

Perhaps the most satisfying win of the evening from a Jewish perspective went to The Lady in No. 6: Music Saved My Life. The short documentary tells the story of 110-year-old concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer, who died one week before the award ceremony.

In his acceptance speech, director Malcolm Clarke lauded Herz-Sommer’s “extraordinary capacity for joy and for forgiveness. … She taught everyone on my crew to be a little more optimistic and a little bit more happy.”

The Prague-born Herz-Sommer was a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

Israeli-American producer Arnon Milchan, an acknowledged intelligence operative for Israel’s nuclear weapons program, shared in the celebration on Sunday night for best picture winner 12 Years a Slave as one of the seven listed producers.

Woody Allen, a regular non-attending entry at the Oscars, failed to win the original screenplay trophy for his Blue Jasmine. However, the honor went to Her writer Spike Jonze, born Adam Spiegel and the son of a Jewish father.

Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, born Emmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern, was the anticipated winner in the best cinematography  category for his extraordinary work on the space cliffhanger Gravity.

Two widely publicized movies based on the financial shenanigans of real-life Jewish con men, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, left empty-handed.

Among the five finalists for best foreign-language film, the Palestinian entry Omar, which draws a highly unflattering portrait of Israeli security agents, lost out to Italy’s The Great Beauty.

For the first time in recent memory, the host for the evening, Ellen DeGeneres, steered clear of Jewish jokes, unlike several of her predecessors.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reversed its long neglect of African-American talent by featuring numerous black entertainers, presenters and award winners, as well as its new president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. In an interesting footnote, Isaacs announced that 5 billion movie tickets were sold worldwide in 2013.

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