Monday night’s Oscar telecast was definitely one for the books, and a major highlight is one small feat totally worth celebrating.
Taika Waititi made history as the first person of Maori descent to win an Oscar, and the first indigienous person to win an Oscar in a writing category. Waititi won Best Adapted Screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit,” a WW2-set satire about a young boy in Hitler’s Youth who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, the film was nominated for six Oscars, including Picture, Supporting Actress (Johansson). Rā Vincent, the film’s production designer, is also of Maori descent, as is Waititi’s wife and co-producer, Chelsea Winstanley, who was nominated in the Picture category.
Waititi’s sensitivity to the subject matter in “Jojo Rabbit” was anchored by the comedy, which should have been deemed edgy and controversial if it weren’t for the thematic elements implemented (the film touched upon the misinformation the Nazis spread relating to the Jewish population of Europe that was used to elevate their Holocaust efforts). Told from the point of view of young Jojo (a fantastic performance by Roman Griffin Davis), the screenplay subtly showed the dangers of a child growing up in a bubble of falsehoods and ignorance.
During his speech, Waititi had a sweet message for aspiring indigenous winners: “I want to dedicate this to all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance, and write stories. We are the original storytellers, and we make it here as well. Thank you.”
By Michael Jacobo
Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times