The Grey Zone by Tim Blake Nelson
The Director's Notes and Screenplay

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For five years, director/writer/actor Tim Blake Nelson prepared himself and others to make this searing Holocaust drama, which drew acclaim and ire from critics and viewers throughout the country. First realized as a play, then a screenplay, Nelson's story is based on historical events, centering on Auschwitz's twelfth Sonderkommando squad, Jewish prisoners assigned work in the crematoria, and their struggle to organize the only armed revolt in October of 1944. Released by Lion's Gate Films in 2002, the movie stars David Arquette, Daniel Benzali, Steve Buscemi, David Chandler, Allan Corduner, Harvey Keitel, Natasha Lyonne, and Mira Sorvino.

This book is the fascinating record of Nelson's journey -- from his initial readings and research, to assembling the brave ensemble cast, to reconstructing the crematoria 80 percent to scale on location in Sofia, Bulgaria, and to his work with the art director, costume and production designers, and others on his team. To acquaint his cast and crew with the difficult material, Nelson summarized his research, his cinematic vision, and his personal beliefs in a compelling, lengthy preproduction memo, which is reproduced in this book, along with his screenplay, movie stills, and excerpts from some of the readings that inspired him -- an essay by Primo Levi and a chapter from the book Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli. Altogether, this unique book delivers an insider's view of the world of independent filmmaking, while revealing why Nelson chose such a difficult project and how he addressed its challenges. Ultimately, The Grey Zone transcends its subject so that as Nelson writes in his preface, "Its context is the holocaust, but it's a film about being human."


About Tim Blake Nelson

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Tim Blake Nelson is best known for his acting roles in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Minority Report, The Good Girl, The Thin Red Line, among others. He made his film writing/directing debut with Eye of God. He is also an award-winning playwright of such plays as Eye of God, The Grey Zone, and Andadarko. He is a graduate of Brown University and Juilliard Theater Center. Born in Tulsa, Oklahama, he lives with his wife and sons in New York City. Stanley Kaufmann is internationally recognized as a film critic and writer.
Published November 6, 2003 by Newmarket Press. 224 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Nelson's 2001 film, in which a Nazi doctor and the Sonderkommando (Jews who were forced to work in the crematoria of Auschwitz) find themselves in a moral gray zone, garnered a National Board of Review Award.

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Entertainment Weekly

In one of the many poetically intense and disturbing moments in The Grey Zone, a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz, played by David Arquette, stares into space with terror and guilt as he listens to the screams coming from the gas chamber.

Nov 01 2002 | Read Full Review of The Grey Zone: The Director's...

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Nov 09 2006 | Read Full Review of The Grey Zone: The Director's...


working in near-full-sized replicas of sections of the camp on location in Bulgaria, Nelson and lenser Russell Lee Fine aggressively push the camera to the very depths of this hell on Earth, into the barracks, anterooms, gas chambers, ovens, graves and prison yards where executions for infraction...

Sep 26 2001 | Read Full Review of The Grey Zone: The Director's...


The playwright cannot tolerate the notion that the instinct to survive may be reason enough to abet terrible occurrences, and though "The Grey Zone" is, until its final moments, an unsentimental play, it does strive to imbue these men with higher character, not only in their efforts to save the g...

Jan 14 1996 | Read Full Review of The Grey Zone: The Director's...

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