April 21, 2024

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Jonathan Glazer's Oscar speech on Israel's war with Hamas causes backlash

Jonathan Glazer's Oscar speech on Israel's war with Hamas causes backlash

At this year's Academy Awards, “The Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer took home the award for most polarizing speech. The vortex surrounding exactly what he said and what he meant – which is still debated – appears to be dissolving.

When the British director took the stage after announcing his Holocaust drama set in Auschwitz as best international film, he was greeted with a standing ovation. He then referred to the remarks he had prepared in advance, thanked the requested players and drew a comparison between the “area of ​​interest” and the current conflict in Gaza, which was difficult to decipher given the applause and muttering of the audience.

“All our choices have been made to reflect and confront us in the present,” he said, according to the academy’s official transcript. “Not at what they did then, but at what we do now.” “Our film shows where dehumanization leads to its worst. It has shaped all of our past and present. And now, we stand here as men refuting their Judaism and the Holocaust, hijacked by the occupation that led to the struggle of so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October – whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the attack The ongoing attacks on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how can we resist?”

Glazer skipped the backstage press room after the win and did not give any interviews to make the point he hoped to make in his speech. He declined to comment on this story.

But that hasn't stopped people from having their say – their differing views align with a wide range of positions on the war between Israel and Hamas.

“He has used his power, position and largest global platform to speak out for people who have no power and no voice, or those who are afraid to speak out, in an extremely conservative, risk-averse industry with a long history of blacklisting.” says Asif Kapadia, winner of the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for “Amy.” diverse. “He stood up and told the truth. That's what real artists do.”

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Jesse Peretz, director of Our Idiot Brother and HBO's Girls, and one of the Artists4Ceasefire signatories, echoed him: “I think this is a case where accurate language is unfortunately a dangerous thing to try to discuss.” Use them, because our intense emotions can make us want to bend the meaning behind words that make us uncomfortable—so that they become easier to reject.

But others criticized Glazer's speech, such as Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who wrote on Holocaust. Glazer talks about understanding what dehumanization can lead to, but he is blind to the fact that it is Hamas's dehumanization of Jews and Israelis that led to the current war. Let me be clear: Israel does not kidnap anyone's Jewishness. He defends About the right of every Jew to exist.”

Greenblatt declined to comment further, but an ADL representative says so diverse He was referring to the entire speech and not just the excerpts that were circulating on social media. It appears that many of those who initially commented on Glazer's speech, such as actor Michael Rapaport, had not heard or read the entire speech. (Rappaport wrote that Glazer “exploited the Holocaust, its victims, and its survivors, while refuting your Jewishness to the world.”) Others, like commentator Ben Shapiro, apparently had not seen the film based on his well-circulated tweet the day after the Oscars that said: “In “Zone of Interest” by Jonathan Glazer, you don't see a single Jew. These are the best Jews, according to Glazer: the faceless victims who scream in the distance. Ironically, he is the villain: he picks the trophies from the bodies of these nameless dead Jews while ignoring the living ones who are being slaughtered. In the Gaza envelope by genocidal killers.’” (There are many Jewish figures depicted in the “Area of ​​Interest”).

Glazer's speech and reaction highlight the growing division in Hollywood that has erupted in the wake of the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. Even in the room, Glazer's speech was met with mixed reactions. While Mark Ruffalo could be seen clapping enthusiastically in the front row of the Dolby Theater, others sat motionless like D'Avne Joy Randolph, who had just won an Oscar for her supporting role in “The Holdovers.”

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Ruffalo, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, was one of several attendees at the Academy Awards who wore an Artists4Ceasefire pin. He was an outspoken defender of the Palestinian cause. But he also worked behind the scenes in efforts to free hostages still held by Hamas. Sources say Ruffalo met with family members of the hostages as well as people who survived the Hamas attack.

While the conversation raged over Glazer's speech, perhaps the most controversial move was who joined him on stage when he accepted his Oscar. Standing silently behind the director was Len Blavatnik, the Soviet-born billionaire with longstanding ties to sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Blavatnik, one of the richest men in the world, has donated millions to Republican Party causes, including just $1 million to Donald Trump's inauguration committee. Additionally, he worked with Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner before they were dropped due to #MeToo allegations. And in an added twist, Blavatnik And it is said He is a close friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has contributed large sums to various Israeli causes. (“Mr. Blavatnik is extremely proud of ‘Area of ​​Interest’ and the acclaim it has received,” says a spokesperson for Blavatnik, who is listed as an executive producer of the film for A24. “His long-standing support for Israel is unwavering.”) “.”)

It was also not clear who Glazer was referring to when he said “we” with “We stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the hijacking of the Holocaust…” Blavatnik is Jewish. It is unclear whether the film's producer, James Wilson, who was standing next to Glazer, was present.

For Stephanie Fox, executive director of the left-wing group Jewish Voice for Peace, those attacking Glazer are simply making a point to his advantage. He wants to apply the lessons of the Holocaust to the atrocities that “face us today,” she says, while his critics want nothing more than to avoid and distract us from the Israeli government’s genocide of Palestinians. He added: “Glazer speaks on behalf of the vast and growing number of Jews who honor our history by joining our Palestinian brothers in their struggle for freedom and justice.”

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A similar sentiment was added by Simone Zimmerman, founder of the grassroots organization If Not Now, which calls for a ceasefire and an end to “American support for Israel’s apartheid regime.”

“For me, the most important line in the speech — and the one that no one broke down about — is the idea that this film is meant to be a wake-up call for us in the present,” she said. diverse. “The people who are hysterical about the rhetoric are the same people who are deeply invested in denying the atrocities currently being committed in Gaza by those who are, in fact, invoking the memory of the Holocaust to justify their crimes.”

The last time a Holocaust drama won the Academy Award for Best International Picture, it was Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes's harrowing “Son of Saul,” which, like “Zone of Interest,” is set in Auschwitz. In a statement to diverseNemes expressed his thoughts on Glazer's film and speech.

“I like 'The Zone of Interest' very much and I think it's an important film,” he said. “When you make a film like this, there is a responsibility attached to it. Glazer clearly failed to measure up to this responsibility, including towards the destruction of European Jews. It was appalling that the film elite were applauding him for it.”

While many questions remain about Glazer's brief speech, it doesn't look like the director plans to answer them anytime soon.