TORONTO, Canada (AFP) — Scarlett Johansson dominated the Toronto film festival’s red carpets Sunday with the debuts of two new films including the world premiere of satirical Nazi comedy “Jojo Rabbit.”
The movie from “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi tells the story of a young German boy living during World War II whose imaginary friend is a make-believe version of Adolf Hitler.
Billed as an “anti-hate satire,” it plots how the child — a Hitler Youth member with a fondness for Nazi uniforms and book-burnings — discovers that his mother (Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.
Johansson said the film’s humor and childish perspective give audiences a new way to grasp “the atrocity of what was really going on at that time.”
She described the script, written by Waititi — who also plays the imaginary Hitler — as a “perfect jewel.”
The New Zealand-born director, who is of Maori and Jewish descent, said the release of the film was timely in today’s polarized political climate.
“Now we’re seeing all those little pockets of hate groups and seeing these patterns that were happening in the ’30s happening again,” he said.
“And for me, now more than ever, I think it’s important that we keep addressing that stuff and revisiting these stories.”
Johansson, the world’s highest paid actress, also appeared on the red carpet for “Marriage Story,” a drama about a divorcing couple in which she stars opposite Adam Driver.
The Netflix movie received rave reviews last week at its world premiere in Venice — the same week that director Martin Scorsese chose to praise Driver as “one of the best, if not the best, actors of his generation.”
Driver, best known to wider audiences as the villainous Kylo Ren in “Star Wars,” has been widely tipped for Oscar glory for his portrayal of a narcissistic New York theater director.
‘A violent thing’
He told AFP the movie was a cautionary tale of the sudden violence with which a relationship can be ripped apart. It depicts his character’s wife (Johansson) move to Los Angeles to pursue the acting career she has long put on hold, taking their child with her.
“If you know someone where you’re in the room together and it’s second nature, and suddenly that’s not there any more, it can be a violent thing — internally I mean, not physically violent,” said Driver.
“Where you lose love and you don’t know how to articulate it.”
Sunday also saw the world premiere of “The Goldfinch,” starring Nicole Kidman, in which a terrorist attack on a New York art museum up-ends a 13-year-old boy’s life.
In the chilling scene from Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel, on which the movie is based, Theo loses his mother and barely escapes himself through a crumbling pile of priceless art treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Director John Crowley said making the scene had evoked uncomfortable real-life parallels.
“With our perspective it felt wrong to reference real terrorist attacks,” said director John Crowley, who decided to shoot the sequence without sound and strictly through the foggy perspective of the child.
“For you to have your head taken to that just didn’t feel that appropriate.”
The Toronto International Film Festival is the largest in North America, and runs until September 15.