Taika Waititi (Tie-Ka Why-Tee-Tee) (tɑɪkʌ wɑɪtiːtiː) is one of the most innovative directors alive today. Originating from New Zealand, his unique directing style has become popular all over the world.
Waititi has fast become a household name, thanks to his work on Thor: Ragnarok and most recent Oscar-winning film Jojo Rabbit, but his feature portfolio dates all the way back to 2007 with Eagle vs Shark featuring Jemaine Clement, a long time creative partner of Waititi.
Each one of Taika’s films are in some way unique, but they all embody a style no one else can replicate. The Waititi style is without a doubt one you can’t help but love, and so this article is not only a list of great reasons why Taika Waitit deserves his Oscar, it’s also a love letter to his films, which are personally some of my all time favourites.
1. His films portray the absurdity in the mundane.
At first glance, films like Boy and Eagle Vs Shark may seem like there isn’t much going on. The lives of the protagonists come across as nothing special, but it’s this very fact that justifies the completely absurd plot points emerging and creating a compelling film.
Take Boy for example: a story about a young boy named Boy living in rural New Zealand with his Grandma, siblings and a goat. One day his estranged father comes back into his life motivated by buried treasure somewhere in the backyard.
The deadbeat father trope, although a serious issue in many real life cases, has been told to death which warrants Boy’s heroic fantasies about his dad being a Maroi warrior, captain of the rugby team, and as cool as Micahael Jackson.
2. The humour is often dark, yet innocent and simple.
Waititi’s films are known for their humour. He often manages to take an important social issue, like racism or broken families, and turns it on its head, portraying these issues in a new light.
Jojo Rabbit is about a young Nazi youth, clearly too young to join the army, who grows up believing all Jews are filthy, evil, somehow magical, less-than-human people who deserve to die. This is obviously incorrect, but it certainly points out the ridiculousness of some beliefs people truly hold about others different to them, and most of the time, it’s because they simply don’t know any better.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is about a troubled orphan boy on the run with his adoptive uncle through the New Zealand wilderness. This concept, if written/directed by, say, Stephen Spielberg, could be a completely different story all together, and unlikely to even remotely be a comedy, yet somehow Waititi manages to pull it off.
An emotional scene unfolds where we witness the death of Ricky Baker’s adoptive Aunty, yet seconds later, hard cut to Waititi himself as a priest officiating the funeral, which then becomes one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
3. Characters and situations are complex and unrealistic, but portrayed in a feasible and relatable way, making them human…or vampires (What We Do In The Shadows).
The situations characters face in almost all of Waititi’s films are often quite ridiculous. Supporting characters are usually types of people we only imagine might exist in fiction. However, in reality, these characters and situations are basically just real life things turned up to eleven.
It’s like what’s inside us has been revealed on the surface making the audience aware of their own flaws and crazy inner feelings that have been there all along.
In Jojo Rabbit, a comedy about Nazi’s, which in itself is ridiculous, we’re shown the reality of how certain beliefs can be outright crazy. The characters themselves wouldn’t exist in the real world, but underneath the surface many things people value and believe turn out to be completely silly, if any evidence of light is shed on them.
4. Artisitcally, Waititi is a genius.
Ever heard the term ‘show, don’t tell’? Taika Waititi is a master at this. Like all great writers and directors, he understands subtext. This is one good reason why Taika deserved his Oscar for the adapted screenplay of Jojo Rabbit, which he wrote and directed.
He perfects the art of visual storytelling. He knows how to get information across without any of the characters directly explaining exposition to the audience, this is a trait many movies suffer from.
If the audience understands where the characters are in the story and how they’re feeling without literally being told those things outright, then the writer has done their job.
5. Every one of his movies are ultimately endearing and leave you feeling inspired.
At the end of the day, the films of Taika Waititi are endearing. They inspire you to accept yourself as a flawed human being and embrace being human as a whole. No one is perfect, which is actually an incredibly beautiful thing.
His worldview revolves around being honest with who we are and embracing our differences.
Waititi knows how to offer inspiration to his audience by his simple yet powerful stories that make us human.