The Zone of Interest: Why Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar speech is ruffling feathers

“I just fundamentally disagree with Jonathan,” said 'The Zone of Interest' executive producer, the first member of the production team to publicly address the speech

'The Zone of Interest' directed by Jonathan Glazer (centre) won two awards at Oscars 2024 (photo: @TheAcademy/X)
'The Zone of Interest' directed by Jonathan Glazer (centre) won two awards at Oscars 2024 (photo: @TheAcademy/X)

NH Entertainment Bureau

The aftermath of the Oscars took an unexpected turn as Jonathan Glazer, director of the acclaimed Holocaust film The Zone of Interest, sparked controversy with his acceptance speech.

Glazer, accepting the award for best international film, delivered remarks that drew parallels between his movie and the ongoing conflict in Gaza. “All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present, not to say look what they did then, but rather look what we do now,” he said, according to the Academy’s official transcript of the speech reported by Variety.

In his speech, Glazer emphasised the relevance of The Zone of Interest to contemporary issues, asserting that the film serves as a reflection on present-day "dehumanisation".

“Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present. Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanisation, how do we resist?” he added.

Based on Martin Amis' eponymous novel, The Zone of Interest follows the story of Rudolf Höss — the longest-serving commandant at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz — and his family as they happily led normal lives while Jews were being gassed to death next door at the camp.

Auschwitz Memorial director Dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński came out to support Glazer, saying "his aim was not to descend to the level of political discourse", and that "critics who expected a clear political stance or a film solely about genocide did not grasp the depth of his message. 'The Zone of Interest' is not a film about the Shoah. It is primarily a profound warning about humanity and its nature".

While Glazer's remarks aimed to draw attention to the film's thematic relevance, it also didn't sit well with a lot of people. The comparison ignited a debate among the film's producers, with executive producer Danny Cohen publicly expressing disagreement with Glazer's sentiments.

Cohen, president of Access Entertainment, publicly addressed the controversy, stating, "I just fundamentally disagree with Jonathan on this." Cohen acknowledged the importance of the film in Holocaust education, but expressed disappointment over the offense caused by Glazer's speech, reports Variety.

People are lashing out with hyperbole and extrapolation as well as many with Zionist values refuting his comparison of the Holocaust, the 7 October Hamas attack, and Israel’s Gaza offensive as ‘conflation’.

The controversy surrounding Glazer's speech also brought attention to the presence of Leonard Blavatnik, another executive producer of the film, with ties to sanctioned Russian oligarchs and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported The Hindu.

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