Photo Credit: Photo illustration by Jerry Greenwald/JP

I’ve heard from a few Jewish friends that after Jonathan Glazer’s bizarre comments at the Oscars Sunday night, they won’t be watching his film “The Zone of Interest” which won Best International Film.

I told them there is a better reason not to watch: it’s one of the worst movies ever made and it erases Jews. I’ve reviewed films for more than two decades and I had trouble understanding why more critics didn’t bash it like I did, or agree with New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, who called it a “hollow, self-aggrandizing art-film exercise.” Or with Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, who correctly wrote that “it’s less of a movie than a misguided work of conceptual art. It has a story-free narrative that spends 105 minutes hammering home the same obvious unremarkable point.”


That point is that a man can hang out with his kids in his house and go to a job where he murders people. Anyone who has studied history knows this.

It is inexplicable that “The Zone of Interest” was considered for any award. Holocaust survivor Sami Steigmann told me the film was boring and had no educational value. In my own review, I described it as “the emperor has no clothes” phenomenon where journalists did not like the film but called it “daring” and “harrowing” because they thought they’re supposed to.

But now it’s “the emperor has no words!” as media outlets would have us believe we are not hearing what we are hearing.

Glazer, who is Jewish, opened the paper on which he wrote his remarks and oddly said he refuted his Jewishness. But wait! Many outlets will tell you that’s not what he said, even though he did say it.

Let’s look at his exact words:

“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.’ 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, whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

First, there is really no such thing as refuting your Jewishness, as one might expect someone to use the word “renounce.” But either way, if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish. Second, he was reading from a paper. If one leaps to an interpretation that “their Jewishness” was him rejecting a subset of Israelis he believes to be war-hungry, he should have said “refute those who claim…” We are left not knowing what he meant.

The novel The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis has several chapters narrated by a Jew named Szmul.

In one portion, Szmul says this: “Of the five senses, taste is the only one that we, the Sonders, can partly control. The other senses are ruined and dead.”

The Sonders or Sonderkommando were Jews who, under threats of death, had to cremate corpses, cut hair, or sometimes lie and tell other Jews they were simply going to the showers.

Szmul continues in the book: “Judaism, unlike other monotheisms, does not hold that the Devil takes human form. All are mortal. But this is another doctrine I am starting to doubt. The German is not something supernatural, but neither is he something human. He is not the Devil. He is Death.”

Later, Szmul says: “I am no longer afraid of death, though I am still afraid of dying. I am afraid of dying because it is going to hurt…”

In case you were wondering which actor played Szmul, the answer is, nobody! Glazer did away with 95 percent of the book, including not having Jews, and not having Nazis with any meaningful reflections, which the book does have. Why not? Cause we don’t look back? Ok. You might have noticed Martin Scorsese included Native American characters in “Killers of The Flower Moon.” You would never see a Black director make a film about a vicious slave master without showing the face of a single Black slave, a slave chained or harmed.

One who would do such idiocy would be branded a racist. But if you do it to Jews, you are branded an Oscar winner. It’s the upside-down world we live in.

In a world where Whoopi Goldberg says the Holocaust was not about race, would it be so surprising for a director who erased Jews in his film to want to do the same to his own Judaism. No, it would not be, even if what he meant was that somehow the Israeli Army’s conduct or comparisons to the Holocaust were not “real Judaism” in his mind.

But let’s get to why what Glazer said was disturbing but not surprising. There is no dehumanization of Jews by Nazis in Glazer’s film. Maybe he should watch it again. You can’t have dehumanization of Jews with no Jews. You see a few Jews for a second in a field and that’s it.

The real dehumanization of Jews was in Glazer’s own statement. If he doesn’t like what Israel is doing, why not just criticize Israel like all the others who were silent while hundreds of thousands were killed in Syria?

Let’s be clear. Every human life is precious, be it a Jew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or atheist; and people should be judged only on their actions.

What Glazer is doing is conflating the terrorist acts of Hamas, whose primary objective is to murder civilians, with the Israeli Army, which is defending its citizens in response to the attack of October 7 and, is attempting to limit civilian casualties. Should we regret death on both sides? Yes. Does that mean terrorists and an army are the same? No.

Alas, Glazer’s film treats nuance about as well as his Oscar-winning speech does. There is not a single moment in “The Zone of Interest” where there is a reason to care about either the Nazi commandant Rudolf Hoss (the protagonist in the film) or his wife Hedwig. She tries on a fur coat, he kisses a horse, she threatens a servant and he tries to vomit and can’t. The only conflict to speak of is Hoss not wanting to be transferred and his wife not wanting to have to leave the home.

I wish Glazer would have made a film that had value and could be shown to teach students at schools. According to a poll by The Economist, one in five Americans ages 18-29 believe the Holocaust was a myth. No teacher will be using this film that is devoid of emotion.

And Glazer couldn’t have even one Jew in the film? I guess it was more important for him to use a gimmick of sound than to educate a new generation that is fed misinformation like popcorn.

Toward the end, the movie inexplicably cuts to the Auschwitz Museum where we see shoes of murdered Jews behind glass. But the point of a Holocaust film is to show the harrowing journey of what it was like to walk around in the shoes of the condemned, not just to see the shoes.

The likely reaction to Glazer’s odd speech is that many Jews will be inspired to double-down on their Jewishness. And yeah, some might pay $15 to watch “The Zone of Interest” but they’ll likely shut it off after a while when they see nothing happens and the movie is about as interesting as spitting a cashew in the wind and watching it fly.

Glazer said what he said. Based on the book and how different his film is, nothing he said surprised me. What is disappointing, though, is that people rush to defend him. It is tragic that due to politics or wanting to look smart, people do cartwheels and backflips and give awards to a film that is a disgusting insult to all Jews and all people who enjoy films.

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Alan has written for many papers, including The Jewish Week, The Journal News, The New York Post, Tablet and others.