Philanthropist Len Blavatnik onstage for Jonathan Glazer’s Israel criticism at the Oscars

‘The Zone of Interest’ director suggests he was representing the Jewish donor in his denunciation of Israel; Gaza war highlighted before, during and after the awards, with some calling for cease-fire and others expressing solidarity with hostages

Writer-director Jonathan Glazer included Ukrainian-born British-American philanthropist Len Blavatnik in his denunciation of Israel as he accepted the award for Best International Feature Film for his Holocaust film, “The Zone of Interest,” at Sunday night’s Oscars. 

With Blavatnik and Jim Wilson, who both produced the film, standing behind him, Glazer declared: “We stand here as men who refute [sic] 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.” (Glazer likely meant reject or renounce, not refute, which means to disprove.)

The statement was in line with previous comments made by Glazer and Wilson, who have in the past conflated the Israeli victims of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks with the Palestinians killed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, and expressed sympathy for both.

The remarks were notable in the presence of Blavatnik, who in December halted donations to Harvard, reportedly over the university’s handling of antisemitism on campus in the wake of Oct. 7 and who owns the controlling stake in an Israeli television network, Channel 13. Through his family foundation, Blavatnik is a major donor to a number of Israeli and Jewish causes, including a Chabad-run food bank in southern Israel, the National Library of Israel and Birthright Israel.

Blavatnik helped produce “The Zone of Interest,” which focuses on the banal evil of Nazis’ families willfully ignoring the slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust, through his Access Industries conglomerate.

While onstage, Blavatnik did not react to Glazer’s remarks about Israel. Blavatnik’s office initially refrained from commenting on the speech, but told eJewishPhilanthropy that “his long-standing support of Israel is unwavering and well-documented.”

Following eJP’s publication, a spokesperson for Blavatnik told The Hollywood Reporter that Blavatnik had not been informed in advance of the contents of the speech.

Glazer’s comments were not the only place where the Israel-Hamas war came up at the Oscars. Some attendees sported yellow pins, denoting solidarity with the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, while others wore red pins declaring their support of the group Artists4Ceasefire, a list of Hollywood professionals who are calling for “the immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Gaza and Israel.” Before the event began, roughly 1,000 protesters also held a “Free Palestine” march near the venue. 

After the ceremony, married Hollywood producers Matti Leshem and Lynn Harris projected the images of the hostages onto the side of a building at Beverly Hills City Hall, across the street from the Vanity Fair Oscars party, one of the premier after-party events.

“This is a really big night for Hollywood and for Beverly Hills,” said Leshem about the Vanity Fair party, which he called “the hottest ticket in town,” for reliably drawing Hollywood’s biggest stars. 

“As a member of the entertainment community, I think it’s great that we celebrate our achievements in film,” Leshem, the founder of New Mandate Films, a film and television production company created to draw stories from Jewish sources, told eJP. “But I also think that this year is very special, and that we can’t let it go by without [acknowledging that] there’s 134 people who’ve been in captivity for five months. The most influential people in the world, all of whom are going to be in that tent, and the media that cover them, need to see this at that moment.”

In an emergency meeting on March 8 — attended by more than 150 people in person with hundreds more participating via phone — the Beverly Hills city council approved a special permit for the display, featuring the simple message: “bring them home.” 

The display extended across a large building at 499 North Canon Boulevard in Beverly

Hills immediately adjacent to the party and featured a range of images of and captions about the 134 people that Hamas kidnapped on Oct. 7. The use of the building was made possible for free by its owner Shawn Far. All the costs and labor associated with producing and projecting the display were donated by Scott Cullather and Kristina McCoobery, co-founders of marketing agency INVNT.

The effort was a partnership with the Tel Aviv-based Hostages and Families Forum, the official representative body of the families of those held hostage by Hamas.

“It’s really basic. We just want people to remember that at this particular moment in time you know, especially in Hollywood on this night, where you’re getting accolades, and everybody’s in a pretty celebratory mood, let’s remember the state of the world that we’re in,” Leshem said.

“I don’t think this is an Israeli issue,” he continued. “I think this is a humanitarian issue. I think that Hollywood has a long history of great humanitarian politics. And I think that that that that this is a moment for Hollywood to stand up, and for everyone to proudly say ‘bring them home.’”

Esther D. Kustanowitz contributed to this report.

Ed. note: The report has been updated to include a response from Blavatnik’s office.