"A Separation" won the Oscar for best foreign language film on Sunday, beating the Israeli film 'Footnote', and becoming the first Iranian movie to clinch the honor.

Directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film focuses on a couple going through a divorce and touches on traditions, justice and male-female relationships in modern Iran.

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"A Separation" was regarded as the front-runner for the foreign language Oscar after sweeping the awards circuit in Europe and the United States.

It was the second Iranian film to be nominated for an Oscar and the first to win.

Writer-director Farhadi alluded to the tensions over his home country.

Amid talk of "war, intimidation and aggression" among politicians, he said, Iran is "spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics."

With his daughter, Sarina Farhadi, who co-stars in the film, looking on from the audience, Farhadi added: "I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment."

"Footnote" deals with the rivalry between a father and son, both Talmud scholars at Hebrew University. The movie stars Shlomo Bar'aba, Lior Ashkenazi and Alma Zack.

Other films nominated in the category were: "Bullhead" (Belgium), "Monsieur Lazhar" (Canada), and "In Darkness" (Poland).

Elsewhere in the ceremony, "The Artist" won five Academy Awards, including best picture, becoming the first silent film to triumph at Hollywood's highest honors since the original Oscar ceremony 83 years ago.

Among other prizes for the black-and-white comic melodrama were best actor for Jean Dujardin and director for Michel Hazanavicius.

The other top Oscars went to Meryl Streep as best actress for "The Iron Lady," Octavia Spencer as supporting actress for "The Help" and Christopher Plummer as supporting actor for "Beginners."