Jew of the Week: Taika Waititi

The Next Great Film Director

Taika Waititi (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Taika David Cohen Waititi (b. 1975) was born and raised in New Zealand to a native Te Whānau-ā-Apanui Maori father and a Russian-Jewish mother. He is probably the world’s most famous “Polynesian Jew” (as he describes himself). While studying drama at Victoria University of Wellington, Waititi joined a comedy troupe called So You’re a Man and toured across New Zealand and Australia. He was later part of a successful comedy duo which won New Zealand’s Billy T Award for comedy in 1999. That same year he acted in his first film, the low-budget Scarfies. After appearances in another film and a TV show, Waititi shifted his focus to film-making. His 2005 short film Two Cars, One Night was nominated for an Oscar. He made his first full-length film in 2007, and his second in 2010. The latter, Boy, set records in New Zealand and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Meanwhile, Waititi wrote the original draft of the screenplay for Moana. His big break came in 2017 when he directed his first blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok. He also voiced the characters Surtur and Korg in the move. The film was critically acclaimed for bringing an entirely new flavour to the dying franchise, and resurrecting the series. It was so popular that a new set of Thor films was put in production, making it the first among the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have more than a trilogy. Waititi will direct the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, in which (former Jew of the WeekNatalie Portman is set to take over the title role. Waititi is also working on Star Wars: the Mandalorian, as well as an adaptation of the classic Akira. His next film, Jojo Rabbit, is generating some controversy as it is a comedic story of a Hitler Youth whose family is sheltering a Jewish child. Waititi is not only the director, but plays the youth’s imaginary Adolf Hitler. Though satirical, Waititi maintains that the film is “anti-hate” and is an “insult” to that “f*cking c**t” Hitler (see trailer here). Waititi was 2017’s New Zealander of the Year, and has been called a “visionary director”, a “comedy genius”, and a “master of suspense”. His best work is undoubtedly ahead of him.

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Words of the Week

Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.
– George Carlin