The New Maker + Taika Waititi

About a Boy who lived in NYC

Central Park, NYC

Central Park, NYC

From growing up in a remote indigenous community to walking the red carpet at the Oscars, filmmaker Taika Waititi’s story really is a fairytale. In its home country of US Boy has beat out blockbusters like Alice In Wonderland and King Kong to become the seventh highest grossing film ever. This is thanks to the talent of the film’s writer, director and star Taika Waititi.

The 35-year-old Maori filmmaker grew up in the very same community depicted in the film and a large portion of it was shot in his childhood home. After university, Waititi met Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement and the trio worked together on several theatre and comedy projects. Then things blew up, metaphorically of course.

Coming from a background in visual arts, Waititi decided to try his hand at movies and entered a competition with his short film Two Cars, One Night. Within the blink of an eye the film was playing at the top international film festivals and had been nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action. Soon his friends Bret and Jermaine were international stars with their show Flight Of The Conchords, which Waititi also came on board to write and direct several episodes. Jermaine also starred in Waititi’s debut feature film Eagle Vs Shark in 2015.

But it is his latest film Boy that could see Waititi at the Oscars once more. Set in 1984, it follows the story of Boy (James Rolleston) who’s left to look after his younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Eketone-Whitu) and cousins when his grandmother leaves town to attend a funeral. Boy was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and won a Best Feature Film award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Variety has already labelled Boy as this year’s Precious, despite the absence of obese black women eating chicken and Mariah Carey.

But for Waititi, all the overseas hype is a bit `weird’.

“I like L.A. and I liked hanging out there, but I didn’t enjoy the Oscars too much,” he says.
“I don’t like things that are really stressful, I like to relax.
“If it was just a big cocktail party and they just happened to be handing out Oscars willy-nilly then I might be into that.”

Waititi says he likes that the film `has an underdog quality to it, especially on the world stage.

“I like the idea that you can make something entertaining with a message,” he says.
“The kind of stuff that we’re portraying here is always in my mind and there seems to be two depictions of Maori - Once Were Warriors, where we’re just smashing each other all the time - or there’s Whale Rider - which is beautiful but gives the impression that all we do all day is live in this very spiritual world.
“I got a review overseas, I call it a bad review, from an American who didn’t like the film because there wasn’t enough spiritual stuff in it for him.
“Basically what he was saying was that there wasn’t enough whale riding.
“For Maoris, to be able to laugh at ourselves is a very important thing and it’s the darker situations when the bright stuff happens.
“More than anything I just wanted to reflect families in general.
“At the end of the day with the dance at the end it’s a movie that tells a story and I’m not shirking my responsibility…if my message is anything it’s be a good parent.”

The dance he is talking about is the combination of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the traditional Maori Haka, which the cast perform at the end credits. One of Boy’s favourite people in the film is Michael Jackson, and fans of the King Of Pop are sure to be overwhelmed with the amount of MJ references.

“I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid,” says Waititi.
“I liked watching his videos and watching Thriller for the first time in that family house where we shot the film.
“He epitomises the 80s for me, especially for kids.
“He was this guy who wasn’t white and he led this amazing life where he was rich and spent his money on stuff that kids would spend it on.
“He had fucking zoo animals, rode around on a mini-train and bought ice cream, like, why not? “We had this idea growing up that if we had money we would spend it on ridiculous lavish stuff too.”

Waititi also stars in the film as Boy and Rocky’s absentee father, Alamein, who is essentially a child himself. Erratic and immature, Waititi says he is a `mixture of people’ he knew. He says the biggest compliment of his performance is the fact he was nominated for best supporting actor at the 2015 New York Film and TV award alongside his 10-year-old co-star Te Aho Eketone-Whitu.

In the mean time, Waititi says he plans on taking a long break before his next project but audiences can be sure he will continue to deliver his unique brand of comedy.

“I tend to like anything that feels a little new and blurs the lines a bit,” he says.
“Flight Of The Conchords is a straight comedy, but this is more subtle and can have darker elements to it.
“It’s not hammering someone over the head with jokes…we don’t need laugh track to tell someone it’s funny.
“It’s treating the audience with more respect; if they don’t get something they will, they don’t have to over-think everything.”

Boy is out in cinemas on Thursday. Keep your eyes peeled for my exlusive interview with Waititi about his role in GREEN LANTERN!

About a Boy who lived in NYC, 8 out of 10 [based on 489 votes]

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