Six reasons why Kiwis love Taika Waititi so much

''I don't really put myself out there as a writer. It makes me feel like I'm a writer now,'' he has said of his Oscar win.
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We already loved him but now the talented Taika Waititi has made New Zealanders even prouder, winning an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for his movie, Jojo Rabbit.

He told RNZ‘s Lisa Owen that the win signified a “recognition of 10 years of making this film”.

“I wrote it in 2010 and it took a long time to get it made, and also because it’s writing… I don’t really put myself out there as a writer. It makes me feel like I’m a writer now.”

In his acceptance speech he encouraged indigenous children to pursue the arts and follow their dreams.

He told Owen, “Growing up in New Zealand, it’s different now but when we were kids it was a harder thing to get into the arts and be taken seriously. There’s a certain age when you’re told to put down your pen and stop writing stories and do real world subjects and I never really agreed with that and my parents never really agreed with that either… I thank them for encouraging me to pursue the arts.”

On The Ellen DeGeneres Show he revealed that he hadn’t originally intended to play the role of Hitler but film makers told him they were only interested in making the movie if he played Hitler.

“It made no sense to me because, look at me – I’m way too goodlooking…” he deadpanned. “But I guess if it had been an actual actor… I felt like it would have detracted… from the story.”

Taika is known for using humour to shine light on dark and difficult topics. Poverty, disconnected families, gang culture and how communities support their most vulnerable are just some of the social issues he has tackled in movies like Boy, The Dark Horse and Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

In 2018 he called New Zealanders out for being “racist as f..k”, telling musician Ruban Nielson in an interview for Dazed and Confused: “I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it’s a racist place. People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Māori names properly.”

“There’s still profiling when it comes to Polynesians,” he continued. “It’s not even a colour thing – like, ‘Oh, there’s a black person.’ It’s, ‘If you’re Poly then you’re getting profiled’.”

Waititi also called Aucklanders “very patronising”.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, you’ve done so well, haven’t you? For how you grew up. For one of your people’.”

In 2017 Waititi was recognised as New Zealander of the Year, and in that same year he fronted a campaign for New Zealand Human Rights, helming a tongue-in-cheek video against racism.

“I’m calling on everyone of my fellow kiwis to help support a very important cause, racism… needs your help to survive,” he said in the clip.

So, Jojo RabbitJojo Rabbit is about a little boy indoctrinated into Hitler Youth who discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his attic.

In Taika’s words to Ellen DeGeneres, the little boy “has never met a Jew before and only knows what he’s been taught in Hitler youth camps.

“So for him it’s like having this monster living in his house and the only way [for him] to deal with that is with his imaginary friend, which is Hitler.”

Of course, the little boy discovers that the Jewish girl is no monster… but maybe Hitler is.

Waititi says, “It’s also about – when you’re only told about a group of people that’s what you think of them until you meet someone and go ‘that’s not what that person is’.

“It’s about learning to think for yourself and not just following the group or the trends of opinion about cultures…”

In the words of Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi is an “international treasure”. And in the video, above, we list six of the many, many reasons to celebrate him.

Video by Lana Byrne. For more great videos check out our Youtube channel.

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