Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Could 'Jojo Rabbit' be in line for an Oscar? Taika Waititi wins big at the Toronto International Film Festival

The Nazi Germany satire won the sought-after People's Choice award

New Zealand actor and director Taika Waititi at the TIFF Tribute Gala during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. AFP
New Zealand actor and director Taika Waititi at the TIFF Tribute Gala during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. AFP

It seems a bizarre concept, given that its premise revolves around quirky New Zealand director and actor Taika Waititi playing Hitler, but Jojo Rabbit seems to already be a hit with even the most discerning of audiences.

Waititi's Nazi Germany satire took the People's Choice award on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It's a significant accolade on its own, but one with even more weight given that the award is often described as one of the most accurate predictors of a film's Academy Awards chances.

For more than a decade, every People's Choice winner in Toronto has gone on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. In 2018, Peter Farrelly's Green Book was the winner of the People's Choice award, and also took the Best Picture Academy Award.

Jojo Rabbit follows the titular Jojo, a young German boy struggling to find his place within the regime and desperate to join up and advance the fascist cause.

He works through his struggles with the help of his imaginary friend – none other than Hitler, played by the half-Maori, half-Jewish Waititi himself. Scarlett Johansson plays Jojo’s mother, who is secretly anti-Nazi and takes in a Jewish girl, causing Jojo to question his beliefs and battle with his imaginary friend.

Waititi has a track record of making delightfully offbeat, surreal dark comedies (What We Do in the Shadows) and touching studies of disrupted childhood (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). Jojo Rabbit all but combines the two.

Scarlett Johansson plays Jojo's mother. EPA
Scarlett Johansson plays Jojo's mother in 'Jojo Rabbit'. EPA

While it might have landed the prestigious People's Choice award, the reception with critics in Toronto was somewhat mixed. Some labelled it a masterpiece, while others questioned its satirical tone of such a devastating period of history.

Also starring Sam Rockwell, the film releases worldwide on Friday, October 18.

The film is a bold move for the Walt Disney Co (who recently bought the film's production company, Fox Searchlight Pictures), but it's seemingly not come without its anxieties. Concerns were raised earlier this year that the film was too edgy for the company, according to Variety, but those rumours were later quashed by Waititi himself.

"It's like saying, 'Watch out for that Life Is Beautiful movie. It's going to bring down the corporation,'" Waititi said. "I don't think you have to worry about this movie because once you see it, it speaks for itself. It's uplifting and it's a very positive message."

Updated: September 16, 2019 11:37 AM

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