Taika Waititi is the First Person of Indigenous Descent to Win Screenwriting Oscar

Taika Waititi just bagged a historic win at the Academy Awards as the first person of indigenous descent to win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It is also the first Oscar he’s ever won in his career.

Waititi, who is of Maori-Jewish descent, thanked his mother for introducing the book “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens to him, which was where the film Jojo Rabbit was based on. “This is for all the indigenous kids in the world who want to write, make art, dance…we can make it here, too!” he added.

In his original artist’s statement for Searchlight from when the film first hit theaters last November 2019, Waititi shared:

I have always been drawn to stories that see life through children’s eyes. In this case, it happens to be a kid that we might not normally invest in.

My grandfather fought against the Nazis in World War II and I’ve always been fascinated by that time and those events. When my mother told me about Christine Leunen’s book Caging Skies, I was drawn in by the fact it was told through the eyes of a German child indoctrinated into hate by adults.

Having children of my own, I have become even more aware that adults are supposed to guide children through life and raise them to be better versions of themselves, and yet in times of war, adults are often doing the opposite. In fact, from a child’s point of view, during these times adults appear chaotic and absurd when all the world needs is guidance and balance.

I experienced a certain level of prejudice growing up as a Māori Jew, so making JOJO RABBIT has been a reminder, especially now, that we need to educate our kids about tolerance and continue to remind ourselves that there’s no place in this world for hate. Children are not born with hate, they are trained to hate.

I hope the humour in JOJO RABBIT helps engage a new generation; it’s important to keep finding new and inventive ways of telling the horrific story of World War II again and again for new generations, so that our children can listen, learn, and move forward, unified into the future.

Here’s to putting an end to ignorance and replacing it with love.

(ALSO READ: LOOK: Natalie Portman Wears Oscars Dress With All the Names of Snubbed Female Directors)

Jojo Rabbit is a fantastical comedy-drama about a young boy living in Nazi Germany whose mother secretly hides a young Jewish girl inside their house and who confides in his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. It has received six Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Editing.

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