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Taika Waititi picks up his first Oscar for the Jojo Rabbit screenplay

The Thor: Ragnarok director gets some gold

taika waititi dressed as hitler directing behind camera on jojo rabbit Photo: Kimberley French/Searchlight
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Films like What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople made him a quirky, indie darling. Writing and directing Thor: Ragnarok catapulted him to geek stardom. Appearing as a robot in The Mandalorian solidified him as a way to brighten up any room. His Twitter is just madness.

But after the 92nd Academy Awards, he’s been given the stamp of mainstream Hollywood approval. Consider him an Oscar winner.

“This is really light,” Waititi said of the award. He dedicated the award to all the indigenous kids in the world who want to create art.

On Sunday night, Waititi picked up the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for his sixth feature, Jojo Rabbit. Based on Christine Leunens’ grim novel Caging Skies, Waititi’s film follows the life of Jojo, a spunky Hitler youth who discovers a young Jewish woman hiding out in the walls of his and his mother’s home. Jojo also has imaginary conversations with Hitler (played by Waititi), which delve into the filmmaker’s usual madcap sensibilities. Waititi has described the film as an “anti-hate satire.”

The screenplay win marks Waititi’s first Oscar. Here was his original artist’s statement, provided by Searchlight, from when the film hit theaters on Nov. 8.

I have always been drawn to stories that see life through children’s eyes. In this case, it happens to be a kid that we might not normally invest in.

My grandfather fought against the Nazis in World War II and I’ve always been fascinated by that time and those events. When my mother told me about Christine Leunen’s book Caging Skies, I was drawn in by the fact it was told through the eyes of a German child indoctrinated into hate by adults.

Having children of my own, I have become even more aware that adults are supposed to guide children through life and raise them to be better versions of themselves, and yet in times of war, adults are often doing the opposite. In fact, from a child’s point of view, during these times adults appear chaotic and absurd when all the world needs is guidance and balance.

I experienced a certain level of prejudice growing up as a Māori Jew, so making JOJO RABBIT has been a reminder, especially now, that we need to educate our kids about tolerance and continue to remind ourselves that there’s no place in this world for hate. Children are not born with hate, they are trained to hate.

I hope the humour in JOJO RABBIT helps engage a new generation; it’s important to keep finding new and inventive ways of telling the horrific story of World War II again and again for new generations, so that our children can listen, learn, and move forward, unified into the future.

Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.

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