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  • Henry Broadbent

Week in Review: Glazer and The Zone of Disinterest

HENRY BROADBENT (HE/HIM)


The week in Aotearoa has seen various pundits whinging at the bothersome intrusion of petty concepts like ‘human rights’ and ‘politics’ into their beloved and staunchly apolitical entertainment activities. ‘Politics doesn’t belong in sports!’, they cry. 1981 Springbok Tour? Never heard of it.


Meanwhile, a world away from the FMG Stadium in Waikato, the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles saw host to the 2024 Academy Awards. The played-safe ceremony looked set to go down in history as remarkably sedate affair—until Johnathan Glazer took the stage to accept an award for the harrowing, disquieting Auschwitz film Zone of Interest. In doing so he became the only Oscar winner in the entire ceremony to mention a conflict that has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians. 


The film details the disturbingly placid, tranquil home life of concentration camp commandant Rudolf Höss and his family; all the while, metres away beyond a barbed-wire topped wall, is the camp. We know this. Sometimes, we can hear it. Watching the film brings to mind Hannah Arendt’s (now almost cliched) observations on the ‘banality of evil’. She saw fascism corrupt everyone it touched, and wrote with incredible lucidity on the large scale incapacitation of communal morality that allowed a programme of mass-murder to go ahead. This concept is at the core of the film, and of Glazer’s speech.


Glazer, who is Jewish, used his moment in the spotlight to draw attention to the genocidal actions of the Israeli military in Palestine, and the dehumanisation that accompanies and propels it. He refuted his identity as a Jewish man “being hijacked by an occupation”, and stated that The Zone of Interest exists “not to say look what they did then, but rather [to] look what we do now … Our film shows where dehumanisation leads at its worst.”

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