I stand behind Jonathan Glazer – we need to have each other's backs

Palestinian filmmaker highlights the significance of Glazer's Oscars speech, and why all those who want peace must support it, too

British-Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi was nominated for an Oscar in 2021. Photo: Farah Nabulsi
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I was deeply moved by Jonathan Glazer's short, but powerful speech at the Oscars, where he bravely addressed the atrocities against Palestinian people in Gaza while accepting the Best International Feature Film award for The Zone of Interest. His words struck a chord with me, especially in these times when the world is witnessing horrendous acts, including forced starvation by Israel against Palestinians, but also humanity in general in Gaza.

As a Jewish man, Glazer's courage to link the historical context of his film – set during the Holocaust – with current events and his critique of the misuse of such historical tragedies for modern political agendas, occupation and the killing of innocents, resonated with me profoundly.

It was a powerful moment of truth in an industry often marked by silence or misinformation on this subject. I literally had tears running down my face.

In that moment, I thought back to the first time I saw his film at a private screening at the Mayfair Hotel in London. Jonathan and his team were present and did a Q&A. That was four months ago, two months into the onslaught on Gaza. Like most other people of good conscience who have also seen the film during these past six months, I easily drew a parallel between the film and what was, and still is, happening in Gaza. Now it's clear that he had such atrocities in mind as well.

Despite the widespread support for Glazer, backlash and misinterpretation of his words were inevitable. But one specific reaction in particular stood out: an open letter, initially signed by 400 and then 1,000 Jewish individuals in the film industry condemning Glazer's statements. It caught everyone's attention because it was so widely publicised, and seemingly put Glazer's career in jeopardy for his words of solidarity.

The letter is, arguably, an unfounded negative reaction, in complete denial about reality. It made some absolutely misinformed statements and frankly was signed by mostly unknown names in the industry, and some of questionable legitimacy, as the document did not require verification. One signature, which Variety has since removed from their republishing of the list, reportedly belonged to someone named "Theriva Tothesea" (The River to the Sea!). To me, it felt like a distortion of Glazer's genuine stance against violence and injustice across the world.

Rather than mainstream entertainment media trades applauding Glazer's speech or staying neutral, some have misquoted him. Variety initially seemed to be implicitly endorsing this open letter, even linking to it at one point for signatures, giving it disproportionate attention to opposing viewpoints. To me, it felt manipulative and sinister. As a fellow filmmaker, a fellow Brit and as a Palestinian, I felt compelled to support Glazer through my platform. In a moment of defiance and solidarity with his stance, I took to X (formerly Twitter) to express my support.

By quoting a post on X with my own commentary, I invited my followers to "sign" my own "open letter" through likes and shares, a symbolic statement of its own. The aim was, of course, to lend support to him. I and many others believe he did the right thing. I did this in the hope that he might see any of the support he was getting from all over the world, including mine. Within 48 hours, my simple short statement of thanks was endorsed by 25,000 people.

Simply put, it is important to stand up for what's right, even in the face of opposition or misinterpretation.

Those of us struggling to end these atrocities that Palestinians have been forced to suffer not just since October 7, but for decades, need to have each other's backs.

Farah Nabulsi was nominated for an Oscar in 2021 for her short The Present. Her latest film, The Teacher, is in cinemas now

Published: March 31, 2024, 3:13 AM