Michel Hazanavicius was born in Paris. His family is Jewish, and originally from Lithuania. His grandparents settled in France in the 1920s. Before directing films, Hazanavicius worked in television, beginning with the Canal+ channel, where he started as a director in 1988. He began directing commercials for companies such as Reebok and Bouygues Telecom, and then, in 1993, he made his first feature-length film, La Classe américaine, for television. The film, co-directed with Dominique Mézerette, consisted entirely of footage taken from various films produced by the Warner Bros. studio, re-edited and dubbed into French.
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