“Jojo Rabbit” director Taika Waititi said that there would have been much less of a backlash against his Oscar-winning Nazi-themed comedy if his critics were aware that he was Jewish.
“They did a press screening with a lot of Jewish press, and a lot of the comments were ‘I wish we’d known that he was Jewish before we’d watched the movie,'” the New Zealand native, who is of Maori and Jewish origin, said in an interview with Variety.
“It feels almost like buying into it, if you start considering the fact that you might have to put on the poster: ‘Don’t worry, the director’s Jewish!’ Or: ‘I know how you’re feeling. Just watch it.'”
While “Jojo Rabbit” was nominated for six Oscars and took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards on Monday, it has proven divisive, with many reviewers expressing reservations about the “anti-hate satire.”
Based on the novel Caging Skies, the film, also starring Scarlett Johansson, portrays World War II through the eyes of a young German boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who has been indoctrinated by the Nazi Youth and is appalled to discover a Jewish girl living in his attic.
Young Jojo, who has never met a Jew before, initially views her with fear and revulsion. But upon learning his mother (Johansson) has secretly taken in the girl at immense risk, he is forced to spend time with her.
Waititi plays Jojo’s imaginary friend Adolf Hitler in the film.
“It’s following in the tradition of some very smart people who had something to say and used comedy — which in my opinion is one of the most powerful tools against bigotry and against regimes and dictators,” Waititi explained during a press conference in October.
“It feels strangely relevant, more relevant,” he said. “Cut to 2019, this film is coming out, there’s the rise of more neo-Nazis and hate groups and intolerance and hate is on the rise, and people who promote hate and intolerance.”