Producer Arthur Cohn honored by film academy

LOS ANGELES (JTA) – Swiss producer Arthur Cohn, a six-time Oscar winner, was honored for his body of work by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Cohn attributes much of his success to a piece of advice Shakespeare put into the mouth of Polonius, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” Though speaking more colloquially, Cohn cited the rule as one of his guiding principles during an Academy evening May 19 devoted to his remarkable body of work. 

The occasion marked the 40th anniversary screening of Cohn’s 1971 breakthrough success, “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” the story of an aristocratic Italian-Jewish family that falls victim to Mussolini’s anti-Semitic purge during World War II.

As Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis noted, among more than 100 films about the Holocaust, “Garden” is one of the few that has maintained its power to this day.

Drawing lessons from his 50-year career as a producer, Cohn elaborated on his three guiding principles.

First: follow your own intuition, don’t listen to objections by others, be true to yourself. By way of illustration, he said, after “Garden” was finished, the film was turned down by 31 distributors until it unexpectedly won an Oscar as the year’s best foreign film.

His two other guidelines are “always use authentic settings” and “the audience must be able to identify with the actors.”

Cohn’s grandfather, then the chief rabbi of Basel, invited Theodor Herzl to hold the first Zionist Congress there after rabbis elsewhere objected.

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