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06th Dec 2017

A hidden gem from the world’s most interesting director is on TV tonight

Paul Moore

Brilliant film, better director.

Not every film has a scene where a teacher yells at two of his younger students to “fuck up or I’ll send you to the principal,” but not every film is directed by Taika Waititi.

In terms of Hollywood blockbusters, 2017 belongs to the New Zealander because his work on Thor: Ragnarok was nothing short of superb. Then again, anyone that saw his earlier films knew that the talented director, actor, comedian, writer, artist, New Zealander of the year, inventor, *dandy vampire, hippie priest, convict on the run and Kronan* was going to deliver something special in the MCU.

*We think he was acting in those roles*

If you fancy watching a hidden gem, Film 4 is showing one of Waititi’s most heartfelt and critically-acclaimed films, Boy.

Ok, what’s it about?

The year is 1984, and on the rural East Coast of New Zealand, Thriller is changing kids’ lives. Inspired by the Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night, Boy is a hilarious and heartfelt coming-of-age tale about heroes, magic and Michael Jackson. Boy is a dreamer who loves Michael Jackson. He lives with his brother Rocky, a tribe of deserted cousins and his Nan.

Boy worships his father, Alamein, and he imagines him as a deep sea diver, war hero and a close relation of Michael Jackson (he can even dance like him). In reality, he’s “in the can for robbery”. When Alamein returns home after 7 years away, Boy is forced to confront the man he thought he remembered, find his own potential and learn to get along without the hero he had been hoping for.

Clip via – eastcoastcrazyhorses

Need more convincing? These reviews might do it for you.

The Guardian – “It’s a disarmingly lovely, big-hearted film, and hilarious in places.”

NY Times – “Joy juxtaposed with humiliation, silliness with sadness, fantasy with reality, and none of it formulaic. The editing feels fresh, as does the film.”

Empire – “Boy is the feel-good film of the year. This boy’s life is a hilarious and bewitching reminder of what it’s like to be young.”

While the God of Thunder might appear to be a million galaxies away from the likes of Ricky Baker (we professed our love for Hunt For the Wilderpeople here), Flight of the Conchords, Wellington’s favourite vampires (we also stuck our teeth into What We Do in The Shadows) or Boy, it’s clear that Waititi always takes his New Zealand heritage, culture and quirky sense of humour with him on every film.

The Oscar-nominated director delivered the best blockbuster of 2017 but he did so while adhering to his indie roots.

While making Thor, Waititi broke new ground by casting the superb Cate Blanchett as Marvel’s first female villain. He also cast a variety of Australian and Māori actors in roles, including Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires), Stephen Oliver (Black Comedy) and his own artistic muse, Rachel House (Eagle vs Shark and Hunt for the Wilderpeople). The director also recruited indigenous production interns thanks to funding from Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department.

It’s also not a coincidence that the character of Korg was based on Waititi’s own hilarious experiences of dealing with bouncers from home. Here’s what he said to JOE about the inspiration for the character (3:30 mark)

Truth be told, there are very few directors that could have managed to throw all of the following into a $200m blockbuster and make it work: a gigantic dog, zombie army, the Devil’s Anus, fire dragons, The Hulk in a hot tub, a woman with antlers for hair, machine guns, a charming rock monster, an ‘orgy’ spaceship and Jeff Goldblum going full ‘Goldblumy.’

Then again, Taika Waititi is no ordinary director.

Think he was feeling the pressure of making his first major Hollywood film? This is how he showed up to Comic-Con.

While the Oscar-nominated director has been earning massive plaudits for Thor’s third installment, Waititi has also used his increasing fame to speak out on those issues that are important to him.

After being named New Zealander of the year, he used this platform to challenge the country’s policies regarding a variety of issues.

“I’m not very proud of coming from a place that everyone overseas thinks it’s this pure, clean, green country but, in reality, all our lakes and waterways are poison. We’ve got a lot to learn about looking after the environment. We’ve got a lot to learn about our depression rates, our suicide rates, teen suicide rates, child poverty numbers and the housing crisis,” he said.

In doing so, his words were described as ‘treasonous’ by a certain columnist. Undeterred, Waititi continued to firmly support the candidacy of Jacinda Ardern and it paid off, she became New Zealand’s Prime Minister in October.

Ok, in terms of Waititi’s upcoming projects, what comes next?

Speaking with JOE, he said that the sequel to What We Do in the Shadows – the brilliantly titled We’re Wolves – is on his immediate agenda. Don’t rule out a trip into the galaxy that’s far, far away also.

A live-action adaptation of Akira has also been mentioned but there’s one project that Boy fans will love, his biopic of Michael Jackson’s pet monkey, Bubbles.

“I’m stoked to be involved with that. It’s almost like a great antidote for what I’ve been doing for two years. The subject is amazing to me, the idea of looking at the life of one of my huge heroes through the eyes of one of his pets. It aligns with a lot of my other work very much; we often look at the adult world through the eyes of kids, and this is a similar thing, really. His master, I guess, is as much a prisoner or is living in a cage as much as Bubbles is. I’m keen on exploring that side of it,” Waititi says.

Whatever it is that he directs next, one thing is guaranteed. It’s going to be interesting.

Boy is on Film4 this evening at 23:20.

Oh yeah, during the 2005 Oscars ceremony, he pretended to be asleep while his name was called out.

Thank Christ that Hollywood has finally woken up to his superb talent.

Clip via – Oscars