|Asghar Farhadi, who directed Iran's winning entry, said his country's people 'despise hostility' [AFP]
The Artist, a black-and-white romance set in 1920s-era Hollywood, has won five Academy Awards and become the first silent film to bag best picture, the awards' highest honour, since the original Oscar ceremony 83 years ago.
This year's awards, given out in a customary glittering ceremony on Sunday, also broke new ground, anointing winners from Iran and Pakistan for the first time.
A Separation, about an Iranian couple choosing between a better life outside the country and remaining to care for an ailing parent, won best foreign-language film, while Saving Face, centred on women victims of acid attacks in Pakistan, won best short documentary.
"At a time of talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their county, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics," Asghar Farhadi, the director of A Separation, said as he accepted the Oscar.
"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment."
Two nights before the Oscar ceremony, Israeli and Iranian artists came together in a show of peace, said Lior Ashkenazi, a star of the Israeli foreign language Oscar entry, Footnote.
"At the Academy event in honour of the foreign films, we sat, spoke and all the veils came off," Ashkenazi told Israel's Army Radio. "They are warm hearted people. We invited them to Tel Aviv and they invited us to Tehran."
Among the other prizes that went to The Artist, a black-and-white comic melodrama, were best actor for Jean Dujardin and best director for Michel Hazanavicius, who had been known best for making spy comedies in his native France.
The other top Oscars went to Meryl Streep as best actress for The Iron Lady, a portrayal of the former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, struggling with dementia, as well as Octavia Spencer as supporting actress for The Help and Christopher Plummer as supporting actor for Beginners.
Streep is the fifth performer in history to receive three Oscars. Dujardin is the first Frenchman to win an acting Oscar. French actresses have won before, including Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche.