‘Son of Saul’ Director Slams Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars Speech: ‘Should Have Stayed Silent’ After ‘Zone of Interest’ Win

“Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars speech was a mistake, “Son of Saul” director László Nemes said. Though he praised Glazer’s film as “an important movie,” Nemes told The Guardian in a statement that Glazer “should have stayed silent.”

In Glazer’s speech, he said that he and producer James Wilson “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 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza.”

Nemes explained in full, “‘The Zone of Interest’ is an important movie. It is not made in a usual way. It questions the grammar of cinema. Its director should have stayed silent instead of revealing he has no understanding of history and the forces undoing civilization, before or after the Holocaust.”

“Had he embraced the responsibility that comes with a film like that, he would not have resorted to talking points disseminated by propaganda meant to eradicate, at the end, all Jewish presence from the Earth.”

“It is especially troubling in an age where we are reaching pre-Holocaust levels of anti-Jewish hatred – this time, in a trendy, ‘progressive’ way,” Nemes added. “Today, the only form of discrimination not only tolerated but also encouraged is antisemitism.”

Like Glazer, Nemes’ film was about the Holocaust — specifically about a Jewish prisoner who is forced to work in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where approximately 1.1 million people were killed. “Son of Saul” is set late in the 1940s, with Saul serving a member of the Sonderkommando, a group of Jews who the Nazis have commanded to organize the deaths of other Jews. Saul Ausländer’s story was based on the real story of Mordechaï Podchlebnik, who unloaded the bodies of his wife and children after they were killed in the gas chambers.

“Zone of Interest” is also set at Auschwitz-Birkenau, though most of the movie takes place on the other side of the walls of the camp, where Nazi commander Rudolph Höss lives with his wife and children. The suffering of millions of people literally next door is captured largely as sounds throughout the film, and no prisoners are seen.

Nemes added that perhaps the lack of Jewish representation in “Zone of Interest” makes Glazer’s statement less of a surprise. “Maybe it all makes sense, ironically, there is absolutely no Jewish presence on screen in ‘The Zone of Interest.’ Let us all be shocked by the Holocaust, safely in the past, and not see how the world might eventually, one day, finish Hitler’s job — in the name of progress and endless good.”

Nemes is hardly the only person who has taken issue with Glazer’s speech. The Holocaust Survivor’s Foundation tore into the director’s statements. President David Schaecter wrote, “You should be ashamed of yourself for using Auschwitz to criticize Israel.”

Schaecter, who is the only member of his family who survived the Holocaust, added, “I watched in anguish Sunday when I heard you use the platform of the Oscars ceremony to equate Hamas’ maniacal brutality against innocent Israelis with Israel’s difficult but necessary self-defense in the face of ongoing barbarity.”

The film’s executive producer also spoke out against Glazer. While speaking on the “Unholy” podcast, Danny Cohen explained, “It’s really important to recognize it’s upset a lot of people and a lot of people feel upset and angry about it. And I understand that anger, frankly.”

Cohen added, “The war and the continuation of the war is the responsibility of Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization which continues to hold and abuse the hostages, which doesn’t use its tunnels to protect the innocent civilians of Gaza but uses it to hide themselves and allow Palestinians to die. I think the war is tragic and awful and the loss of civilian life is awful, but I blame Hamas for that.”

The speech was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who tweeted on Monday, “Israel is not hijacking Judaism or the Holocaust by defending itself against genocidal terrorists. Glazer’s comments at the #Oscars are both factually incorrect & morally reprehensible. They minimize the Shoah & excuse terrorism of the most heinous kind.”

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