Eccentric, sincere: understanding Taika Waititi in five films

A New Zealand child to a Maori father and Jewish mother, Taika Waititi is an accomplished cinematographer, comfortable both behind and in front of the camera, with a talent that is critically adored. So, to celebrate this week’s release of Thor: Love and Thunder, we bring you a return into the life of a one-of-a-kind filmmaker in five films.

5 – Boy (2010)

In the 80’s boy (James Rolleston) is a Maori boy who is raised by his grandmother with his brother and cousins. His father’s returnTaika Waititi himself), which he idealizes, will force him to face reality after years of absence. In its construction, “Boy” is the ideal example of the “Taika Waititi” style: a subtle and sensible blend of comedy and drama, a perfect echo of human emotion. Above all, the feature film is a very personal source of inspiration.

The film will be shot in Waihau Bay, New Zealand, where the director spent part of his life. As the son of a Maori father, the Polynesian identity permeates his works. As a huge supporter of Indigenous voices from around the world, he helped create the brilliant series The Reservation Dogs – discover it on Disney+ – which follows the life of a gang of Indigenous teenagers on an Oklahoma reservation.

4 – Jojo Rabbit (2019)

John (Roman Griffin Davis), nicknamed Jojo, is a ten-year-old boy who was recruited by the Nazi movement at the end of World War II. On the day he found out that his mother Rosi (Scarlett Johansson), hiding a young Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomas McKenzie), his world is turned upside down.

Presented as a satire against hate, “Jojo Rabbit” inspired by the book “Le Ciel en Cage” by Christine Leuens, will be crowned with the prestigious Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2020 awards. Raised by his mother, whose surname he sometimes uses (Cohen) in his artistic projects, the director presents himself as a Polynesian Jew. So by putting yourself in the shoes of an imaginary Adolf Hitler, Taika Waititi mocks the very foundations of this extremist ideology. A very controlled irony, great specialty of the filmmaker.

3 – Vampires in Total Privacy (2014)

In Wellington, the capital of New Zealand (replaced by Limoges in the French version), five vampires live in a shared flat. As the subjects of a documentary film, they are accompanied by a camera team. Black humor, omnipresent, seduces in this work from a short film. Following its success, a series version (“What we do in the Shadows” – discover on Disney+) and a spin-off series (“Wellington Paranormal” – discover on SkyShow) were released in 2019.

Vampires In All Intimacy presented at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clemens, who also wear the costumes of the main characters Viago and Vladislav. Because for the New Zealander it is a tradition to develop in front of the camera. In each of his feature films he directs himself and lends his voice to numerous projects. He voices the character Mo in the original version of “Buzz Lightyear” (2022) and the rabbit Ralph in the stop-motion short film “Save Ralph” (2021) – a must see on YouTube. A natural charisma coupled with an obvious joy, typical of this multi-hatted artist.

2 – Chasing Ricky Baker (2016)

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a young delinquent who was abandoned by his mother. Placed at Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neil), a peasant couple, he finally finds family support there. When Bella suddenly dies, the boy flees into the woods, pursued by social services. Chasing Ricky Baker was a huge hit in his home country and became New Zealand’s highest-grossing film. Based on the novel “Wild Pork and Watercress” by Barry Crump, the feature film approaches emotional and thematic depth with sensitivity and humor.

Humour, a great weapon of Taika Waititi, which was used with skill throughout his filmography. Because by laughing he speaks to his audience, introduces himself gently into his mind and makes his sensitive chords vibrate. By putting his camera on the level of Riky Baker, a young teenager, he makes himself the voice of childhood and displays a youthful sensibility that’s also felt in “Boy” and “Jojo Rabbitt.” A subtlety and storytelling talent that cannot be missed

1 – Eagle vs Shark (2007)

Shy Lily (Loren Horsley) works in a fast food restaurant. Jarrod for his part (Jemaine Clemens) is an employee of a video game store. After a costume party, the two young people start dating. But Jarrod plans to confront his former high school bully. In his first feature film, the director puts characters against the current with false airs from Napoleon Dynamite (2004). A penchant for atypical personalities that runs through his entire filmography. And if these protagonists can surprise in such a special way, they always skillfully manage to address the largest possible number.

“Eagle Vs Shark” marks the continuity of the filmmaker’s collaboration with Jemaine Clemens after several short films. The actress too Rachel house, who appears here for the first time in a work by the New Zealander, was subsequently involved in most of his projects. From “Boy” to “Thor Ragnarok,” she’s carved a spot for herself in her creations, with an announced role in “Next Goal Wins” slated for 2023. A cinematic family that participates in the creative process of the universe so unconventional, but still soft and touching, from Taika Waititi

Learn more about Thor: Love and Thunder, the new film directed by Taika Waititi, which hits theaters July 13.

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