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Why ‘Jojo Rabbit’ takes aim at Nazis and Hitler in Taika Waititi’s ‘anti-hate’ satire

Although Taika Waititi’s novel adaptation “Jojo Rabbit” had been in the works since 2011, it feels like 2019 marks an even more relevant time to release the WWII-set “anti-hate satire” into the world, the “Thor: Ragnarok” director said ahead of his Toronto International Film Festival premiere.

Based on Christina Leunens’ book “Caging Skies,” the film follows young Jojo “Rabbit” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a lonely Nazi kid who discovers his family is secretly harboring a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie). The film’s cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant and Sam Rockwell.

Jojo’s imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, is portrayed by none other than the director himself. Hitler was not a character in the original novel that Waititi added to the film and eventually decided to play himself.

“There had definitely been a lot of fantastic and amazing films that had approached this subject from a really dramatic, very serious and earnest way,” he said, joined by Rockwell at the L.A. Times studio at TIFF. “And in this day and age right now, we can’t forget what happened. And I think people kind of are.”

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The New Zealander is himself of Polynesian and Jewish descent and hopes the Fox Searchlight title, which Disney will release Oct. 18, offers a new way to remember the lessons of the past. “My fear is that people are going to start getting numb to the story of what happened in World War II, and I think you’ve got to find new and inventive ways of telling that story again and again.”


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