Taika Waititi says he was determined to use humor to tackle bigotry and fascism
It takes a brave director to make a comedy about a 10-year-old Nazi and his imaginary friend Hitler -- and an even bolder one to play the moustache-and-swastika-clad dictator himself.
But Taika Waititi says he was determined to use humor to tackle bigotry and fascism in his Oscar-tipped film "Jojo Rabbit," released this week, at a time when there are "many Nazis around."
"It's 80 years ago this year that Charlie Chaplin made 'The Great Dictator'. So I wouldn't say it's too soon!" the New Zealander, who is of Jewish and Maori descent, told journalists at a Beverly Hills press conference.
"It's following in the tradition of some very smart people who had something to say and used comedy -- which in my opinion is one of the most powerful tools against bigotry and against regimes and dictators," said the "Thor: Ragnarok" director.
The film, starring Scarlett Johansson, portrays World War Two through the eyes of a young German boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who has been indoctrinated by the Nazi Youth, and is appalled to discover a Jewish girl living in his attic.
Young Jojo, who has never met a Jew before, initially views her with fear and revulsion. But upon learning his mother (Johansson) has secretly taken in the girl at immense risk, he is forced to spend time with her.
Billed as an "anti-hate satire," the movie has been in the works since 2011, when Waititi's mother first recommended to him "Caging Skies," the novel on which it is based.
Its release comes at a time when despots and far-right populists are on the rise around the world, said Waititi.
"There weren't as many Nazis around then!" he said, referring to when work on the movie first started.
Now, "It feels strangely relevant, more relevant."
"Cut to 2019, this film is coming out, there's the rise of more neo-Nazis and hate groups and intolerance and hate is on the rise, and people who promote hate and intolerance," Waititi said.
"Jojo Rabbit" hits North American theaters on Friday.