Bafta-winning producer on stage: The Zone of Interest is about Gaza too

James Wilson compares lives lost in Gaza and Yemen to Israel and Mariupol while accepting award for Best British Film

Jonathan Glazer and James Wilson won the Best Film Not in the English Language award for The Zone of Interest at the Baftas. EPA
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The Zone of Interest is not just one of the most lauded movies of the current awards season. It is also perhaps the most relevant to the current tragedies facing the region, according to the film’s producer.

In his acceptance speech for Best British Film at last night’s Baftas, seasoned British producer James Wilson brought up the conflicts in Gaza and Yemen and the value given to innocent lives being lost as relevant to his film’s Holocaust theme.

“A friend wrote [to] me, after seeing the film the other day, that he couldn’t stop thinking about the walls we construct in our lives which we chose not to look behind,” Wilson said on stage.

“Those walls aren’t new from before or during or since the Holocaust, and it seems stark right now that we should care about innocent people being killed in Gaza or Yemen, in the same way think about innocent people killed in Mariupol or in Israel,” Wilson added to a roar of applause.

The Jonathan Glazer-directed Holocaust-set drama, which also won Best Film Not in the English Language and Best Sound, follows the disturbing story of a group of people living near the Auschwitz concentration camp during Second World War who are able to block out the horrors and lead seemingly normal lives.

While many have drawn parallels between the film’s depiction of Nazi-controlled Poland and the contemporary world, those links were confirmed by Wilson to be deliberate.

While the film, which launched at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, was made long before the current Israel-Gaza War began, Wilson said it was intended as a warning to those watching it to not block out the injustices happening around us.

“Thank you for recognising a film that asks you to think in those spaces,” Wilson said.

While he did not call explicitly for a ceasefire in Gaza, others did, including fellow Best British Film nominee Ken Loach, whose film The Old Oak tells the story of the hardships faced by a Syrian refugee in the UK.

The 87-year-old, who plans to retire from filmmaking after this movie, brought a sign to the red carpet that read: “Gaza: Stop the massacre”.

His production company later called for a ceasefire on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, when re-sharing the photo.

Back in December, The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer made an allusion to the war in Gaza during an interview with The Guardian newspaper, though did not name it explicitly.

“The sickening thing about this film is it’s timely and it’s always going to be timely until we can somehow evolve out of this cycle of violence that we perpetuate as human beings,” Glazer said at the time.

“And when will that happen? Not in our lifetime. Right now, it seems to be reversing and I’m mindful of that, too, in terms of the film and its complexity.”

Solidarity with the people of Gaza has been a running theme of red carpets this year. Celebrities in Spain recently made impassioned calls at the recent Goya Awards.

Updated: February 19, 2024, 1:36 PM