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Over 450 Jewish Creatives Denounce “Zone of Interest” Director Jonathan Glazer's Oscars Speech in Open Letter

The film's executive producer, Danny Cohen, previously said he "fundamentally" disagreed with Glazer's speech

<p>Karwai Tang/WireImage</p>  Jonathan Glazer in London on Feb. 4, 2024

Karwai Tang/WireImage

Jonathan Glazer in London on Feb. 4, 2024

The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer's speech at the 96th Academy Awards on March 10 has drawn criticism from over 450 Jewish professionals in Hollywood in an open letter published by Variety on Monday.

While accepting the Oscar alongside producer James Wilson for best international feature, Glazer, 58, said in part, "Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst."

The English director continued, "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 dehumanization … how do we resist?"

The speech has been met with mixed reactions amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. The open letter published by Variety included the signatures of actors Jennifer Jason Leigh and Brett Gelman, directors Eli Roth and Rod Lurie, creators Amy Sherman-Palladino, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg and more.

"We refute our Jewishness being hijacked for the purpose of drawing a moral equivalence between a Nazi regime that sought to exterminate a race of people, and an Israeli nation that seeks to avert its own extermination," the letter reads, in part.

<p>Courtesy of A24</p> Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller in <em>The Zone of Interest</em> (2023)

Courtesy of A24

Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller in The Zone of Interest (2023)

The letter continues, saying that Glazer's speech "gives credence to the modern blood libel that fuels a growing anti-Jewish hatred around the world, in the United States, and in Hollywood. The current climate of growing antisemitism only underscores the need for the Jewish State of Israel, a place which will always take us in, as no state did during the Holocaust depicted in Mr. Glazer’s film.”

Glazer had no comment when contacted by PEOPLE.

Separately, Zone of Interest executive producer and co-financier Danny Cohen, said on last Thursday's episode of the Unholy podcast, "I just fundamentally disagree with Jonathan on this," adding, "My support for Israel is unwavering."

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"I think the war is tragic and awful, and the loss of civilian life is awful, but I blame Hamas for that. And I think any discussion of the war without saying that, for me, lacks the proper context that any discussion about war, from my perspective, should have," Cohen said.

The militant group Hamas killed 1,200 civilians and soldiers and took at least 200 more as hostages in Israel last October. Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas — which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza — and indicated that a long military campaign to defeat the Islamist militants was on the horizon. But in the time since, Israel's siege has largely harmed civilians and many activists have called for a ceasefire. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adamantly denied the allegations of genocide, saying the country is acting in self-defense.

During Cohen's podcast appearance, he also said that he had been contacted by "a lot of people in the Jewish community" who felt that the Zone of Interest is "a remarkable and very, very important film, and in being so tells the story of the Holocaust and forms a very, very important part of Holocaust education."

<p>PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images</p> Jonathan Glazer (center) accepts the award for Best International Feature at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 10, 2024

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Jonathan Glazer (center) accepts the award for Best International Feature at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 10, 2024

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"And I think they've been upset by the sense they feel that has been mixed up with what's going on [in Gaza currently], whether that was Jonathan’s intention or not to do that," he added.

For Cohen, "It's really important to recognize [that Glazer's speech] upset a lot of people, and a lot of people feel upset and angry about it."

"And I understand that anger, frankly," he added during the podcast interview.

Adapted from the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, The Zone of Interest is about the real-life Nazi officer Rudolf Höss (played in the film by Christian Friedel), his wife Hedwig Höss (Sandra Hüller) and their five kids, who led their everyday lives at a house just outside of the Auschwitz concentration camp that Rudolf was in charge of. The film depicts the German family's mundane daily activities, juxtaposed by the atrocities of the Holocaust happening just over the fence.

The Zone of Interest was nominated for five Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture, winning Best International Feature and Best Sound.

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