The new “anti-hate” satire “Jojo Rabbit” didn’t happen overnight.
That’s typical for most feature films. Many require years of development, from tinkering with the scripts to lassoing the funding to make it all happen.
That’s precisely the path Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” took to the big screen. It took eight years for the unconventional film to reach theaters.
It was in 2011 that Waititi began writing a screenplay based on Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies, which follows Johannes Betzler (Jojo), a boy in the Hitler Youth who finds out that his parents have been secretly harboring a Jewish girl in their family home. Waititi knew immediately that adapting the novel would be tricky, and he struggled early with his own misgivings about the project. “I hate Nazis,” he notes emphatically. “And I don’t really care too much about making a film about their point of view. [But] there’s something so amazing about the seeds of the story and what it could be — could I figure out a way to make this enjoyable for myself to make if I ever get to?”
The satire, slated for an Oct. 18 release date, lets the director wear a number of critical hats. Waititi not only directed the film, but he wrote the screenplay and stars as … gulp … Adolf Hitler.
The film also lets the media wear its favorite hat. Here’s a hint -- it’s not red.
Here’s Gizmodo weaponizing the very first paragraph on its “Jojo Rabbit” feature to editorialize against the Commander in Chief.
Taika Waititi’s anti-hate satire might feel like it was created as a response to the wave of Trump-era fascism …
Does that refer to sitcom stars demanding Trump donors be outed? Or progressives chasing conservatives out of restaurants? Maybe it’s the wife of a Fox News star getting scared to death by Antifa types harassing her at home?
The story doesn’t say. It’s implied. Trump is a fascist … who can’t get his own party to bend to his will and waits for the courts to have the final say on some of his decisions.
The Hollywood Reporter steers Waititi into saying the film is critical now … more than ever … while ignoring the aforementioned hate.
The director is aware of an increased relevance that Jojo now has since he sat down to write in 2011 — specifically the global resurgence of fascism and white nationalism. “It wasn’t something where it felt like, ‘We better make our film now because Nazis are popular again. Yay!’” says Waititi of the strangely fortuitous socio-political climate into which Jojo is now being released. “I’m not one of these people who’s like, ‘Well you know that Mercury is in retrograde, so that’s why this happened today.’ I do believe that things happen when they need to happen, and you can’t force it.” He takes a beat, adding, “Or maybe it’s just that things happen when you notice them.”
The Hollywood Reporter later teased a separate feature from “Jojo Rabbit.” This one involves a video interview with the film’s stars. The youngest, Roman Griffin Davis, says the movie will “teach Trump a lesson on hate.”
Needless to say that’s how THR framed the conversation.
Mocking Hitler may be the least brave movie any satirist could make, particularly in 2019. There’s no target as easy, as universally loathed, as the German leader. Those who disagree may as well wear tinfoil hats in public.
Perhaps “Jojo Rabbit” taps into universal truths beyond hating Nazis, like pre-judging people based on the political parties they choose. Or, it might take a swing at the tribalism infecting both sides of the political aisle in 2019. That would be both wonderful and welcome. And, given the sharp comic punches thrown by Waititi in recent years, including “Thor: Ragnarok,” extremely possible.
Still, the writer/director knows he’ll get plenty of press mileage by playing the Trump card during his push for the film.
Biased reporters will likely handle the rest.