At The Oscars, ‘The Zone Of Interest’ Extends To Gaza

Kevin Gosztola
The Wide Shot
Published in
5 min readMar 11, 2024


“Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer accepting the Oscar for best international feature. (Source)| Fair use as it is included for the purpose of commentary and criticism.

“All our choices were made to reflect and confront us in the present, not to say look what they did then. Rather look what we do now,” declared “Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer while accepting the Oscar for best international feature.

“Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It 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,” Glazer added. “Whether the victims of October 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack in Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization. How do we resist?”

“Alexandra Bistron Kolodziejczak, the girl who glows in the film as she did in life, chose to [resist]. I dedicate this to her memory and her resistance.”

Glazer received a loud applause and had to pause before finishing his prepared statement. It reflected the opposition among attendees to the Israeli military’s siege and assault on Gaza. But during the 96th Annual Academy Awards, it was the only mention of Gaza from the stage.

Activists calling for a ceasefire feared that the Israeli government would use the awards show like the Super Bowl and launch an all-out invasion in Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinian refugees have “sheltered.”

“We will not be distracted by the entertainment industry,” proclaimed Jewish Voice For Peace in Los Angeles. “We WILL continue to call for a permanent ceasefire and Palestinian liberation. Let’s mobilize and take the streets to show that we refuse to look away from this ongoing genocide! Ceasefire NOW!”

The Los Angeles Police Department in cooperation with Academy Awards planners established a “heavily guarded perimeter” around the Dolby Theatre more than a day before the show. More than 1,000 police and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) locked down Hollywood.

Security measures resulted in hundreds of attendees arriving late, and host Jimmy Kimmel opened his monologue by mentioning that the Oscars were already five minutes behind schedule, even though the event had started an hour earlier than usual. (He declined to say why the show had not started on time.)

When “War Is Over! Inspired By The Music of John & Yoko” won the award for best animated short, it seemed likely that filmmakers Dave Mullins or Brad Booker would make some kind of statement about Gaza. They brought John and Yoko’s son Sean Ono Lennon on stage, and he is one of several hundred musicians, who support a ceasefire.

Mullins mentioned that the filmmakers were inspired by the “antiwar message” of the song, but he did not say anything about how or why that message still resonates.

During the few seconds that Lennon had to speak, he wished his mom a happy Mother’s Day. He did not even quickly shout, “Ceasefire now!”

Evidently, despite the legacy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono as peace activists, Mullins and Booker did not believe that they could connect their Oscar-winning film to protests demanding a ceasefire.

To acknowledge the protests would undermine the boost that this moment would give their careers, and that said a lot about Gaza and how easy it is for us to be complicit when unspeakable acts are being committed.

Cillian Murphy won the award for best actor for his performance in “Oppenheimer.”

“For better or for worse, we’re all living in Oppenheimer’s world,” Murphy said as he accepted the award. “So I would really like to dedicate this to the peacemakers everywhere.”

The vagueness was a deliberate choice by a talented and wonderful actor, who had accepted several awards for his performance prior to the Oscars. Although he could have invoked his Irish heritage to stand with Gaza (or said something about nuclear weapons), he did not want to risk alienating anyone with stronger words for humanity.

Mstyslav Chernov, who directed “20 Days In Mariupol,” won the Oscar for best documentary feature. He said, “We can make sure that the histor[ical] record is set straight and that the truth will prevail and that the people of Mariupol and those who have given their lives will never be forgotten.”

Though the connection was not made by Chernov, Israel’s assault on Gaza — fueled by weapons shipments from the United States — has been more deadly than Russia’s bombing of Mariupol.

Comedian and actor Ramy Youssef, who is part of the “Artists for Ceasefire” campaign, wore a red pin and was asked by The Hollywood Reporter about the pin while he was walking the red carpet.

“We’re all calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” Youssef replied. “We’re calling for the safety of everyone involved, and we want lasting justice and peace for the Palestinian people.”

“Even if a lot of that feels like a lot for people, we really want to say let’s just stop killing children.”

Youssef added, “And there’s so much there to process, and it feels like the easiest way to have a lot of the conversations people want to have is when there isn’t an active bombing campaign happening.”

The comments were incorporated into much of the coverage of the Oscars, however, they were not made during the awards show itself.

Swann Arlaud, who plays Vincent in “Anatomy of a Fall,” was seated in the front rows. He wore a Palestinian flag pin.

A few of the “Artists for Ceasefire” occasionally popped up, like Mark Ruffalo, who was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in “Poor Things.” It was not difficult to spot their pins.

Ruffalo was one of the many attendees who had trouble getting into the event as a result of the protests. “We’re late. The Palestinian protest shut down the Oscars tonight. Humanity wins,” he shouted as he rushed into the theatre.

Although the Israeli military did not invade Rafah during the Oscars, the military launched an air strike on southern Rafah and bombed Gaza City. At least a dozen or so people were killed.

It was also the first day of Ramadan, and footage of Israeli forces blocking hundreds of Muslim worshipers from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque circulated throughout the world.

The Oscars illustrated how little has changed within the industry. For the past months, references to the Israeli government’s inhumane objectives have often been treated as hate speech equal to or as bad as denying that the Holocaust happened. So filmmakers generally shrink rather than use their voice to demand an end to the violence.

On the other hand, the one moment that the Oscars produced in solidarity with Palestinians holds enormous power because the “Zone of Interest” filmmakers courageously took the lessons of the Holocaust and connected the crimes against humanity at Auschwitz to the crimes against humanity in Gaza.

Glazer consciously challenged the Israeli government’s history of weaponizing the Holocaust to justify Israeli military occupation and excuse Israeli actions against Palestinians. He did so as a Jewish person, and that gave Oscar attendees permission to stand with Gaza while the world was watching.

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Kevin Gosztola
The Wide Shot

Journalist, film/video college graduate, and movie fan. Previously published by Fanfare and Counter Arts.