The Enduring Love Between ZFF and Taika Waititi – The Premiere of the Hilarious Jojo Rabbit is Next

ZFF has followed the work of New Zealand director Taika Waititi from the very beginnings. His first feature film, Eagle vs Shark, a quirky love story about two completely misfit weirdos, was the biggest hit of the 5th ZFF, way back in 2007, when the festival was still taking place in Zagreb’s Student Center and when the unknown director was ZFF’s guest.

This completely twisted comedy was received with standing ovations by audiences in both the Student Center and at the Sundance Film Festival. It marked the beginning of an impressively creative and cinematographic path of a director prone to combining drama and comedy, which often resulted in excellent dark humor, because, as he himself puts it, such is life itself: it takes place somewhere between the grey tones on the edge of laughter and tears.

Waititi returns to this year’s 17th edition of the Zagreb Film Festival with a new film for the fifth time. The indie jewel Eagle vs Shark was followed by Boy, What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and this year in the program Together Again dedicated to the new films by authors which ZFF continuously follows, we are screening his latest film Jojo Rabbit which will premiere in the US just a few weeks before Zagreb.

The new twisted comedy from the workshop of the New Zealand filmmaker and Maori rights and identity advocate, who also identifies as a Polinesian Jew, is set in the 1940’s. It follows a lonely boy, mocked by his peers because of his timidity (therefore the nickname Jojo Rabbit), also a member of the Nazi youth, while Waititi plays Hitler, in this case the boy’s imaginary and best friend.

Although a comedy, the film is already surrounded with numerous controversies, in which some accused Waititi for participating in kiwi washing, and his response was very simple – there is no greater insult to Hitler than to be portrayed by a Polinesian Jew such as himself. The film also won the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, which is often a precursor for an Oscar nomination.

Although he built his career on the twisted, the quirky and comical, the independent and low-budget, Taika Waititi is a director who is currently in the middle of his rapid success. In the last few years, he has directed highly commercial Hollywood projects such as the Disney’s Star Wars series The Mandalorian or the Avengers sequel, Team Thor.