Taika Waititi has stressed the importance of “poking fun at bullies” and said the rise of the far right has made his anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit feel more relevant than ever before.
The New Zealand director plays Adolf Hitler in his new movie, about a little boy in Nazi Germany who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
Arriving at the film’s premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, he said: “When I wrote it, it was very rare that you would read about these things in the news – and now it almost feels like every couple of days you are hearing about hate groups and acts of prejudice and intolerance.
“Sadly that stuff is happening more and more often and I guess if there is one thing I can take away as a positive is that the film is more relevant than ever now, and hopefully people get to watch it and it will change them or encourage them to go and make a change in the world.”
He added: “Satire has always been an important weapon but comedy has always been a more important weapon in my mind, it’s more that you’re pulling at the thread of these regimes and these ideals and the things that, on the surface, are pretty absurd, so it’s good to poke fun at bullies and people who encourage prejudice.”
Thomasin McKenzie, who plays Elsa – the Jewish girl being hidden in the attic, said she was initially nervous about the tone the film would strike.
She said: “Throughout the filming process, pre-production, afterwards, I think the whole team has been waiting with trepidation, unsure about how people are going to react to it but so far it’s been a really great reaction.
“And I think the most important thing is, whether you love it or hate it, at least you’re thinking about it and at least you’re thinking about the atrocities of the past.”
She added: “There is a lot of hate going on around the world at the moment and a lot of angry people feeling as if they have the right to put people down for their religion or for where they are from and what they look like, which is not ok so I think this movie tries to fight against that.”
Game Of Thrones star Alfie Allen, who plays a Nazi officer in the film, continued: “I wasn’t really given a pitch of what it was about, I was just handed it and told ‘read this’ and just fell in love with it straight away.
“I had to meet Taika to see what it was about and the positive message that it has running through it, but when you’re in his hands it’s a safe bet.
“Spreading positivity is as relevant as ever, but in terms of people that are dear to those political beliefs, then we need to ridicule them.”
The film has generated significant awards buzz since it won the audience prize at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and Waititi, who is also responsible for films such as Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, said he has been gratified by the response.
He said: “Without sounding arrogant, and I know this sounds arrogant, I’ve always believed in this film, I’ve always believed in this, that the story was great.
“As a filmmaker you never know if you’re going to make a good film, you write a script and you hope and having worked on the film really hard and then coming away with a film that I’m proud of, it’s gratifying and it’s validating that audiences love the film.
“You want to believe that it’s worth it and so those responses made me really believe it was.”
Jojo Rabbit is released in UK cinemas on January 1 2020.