Taika Waititi: AAPI Heritage Month Filmmaker Highlights

Oscar winner. MCU director. Acclaimed indie filmmaker. Actor. Comedian. We celebrate multi-hyphenate cultural force and AAPI icon Taika Waititi.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Taika Waititi AAPI Heritage Month

© Array Releasing /courtesy Everett Collection

He's a man of many talents (Oscar and Grammy winner, Primetime Emmy nominee). And there's a lot more of that talent on the way. We celebrate and give thanks to the universe for Taika Waititi, a singular AAPI talent.

How You Know Him

He's the writer, director, co-producer, and co-star of "Jojo Rabbit," a film that earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

He's also the director of "Thor: Ragnarok" and the upcoming "Thor: Love and Thunder." In those MCU films, he plays loveable rock dude Korg.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

On the small screen, he's the voice of droid bounty hunter IG-11 on "The Mandalorian," a part that earned him an Emmy nomination. He also directed an episode of the popular series. On top of that, he's a Grammy winner for the soundtrack for "Jojo Rabbit."

Plus, he's one of the most stylish, fashionable, and fun filmmakers around.

His Life So Far

The 45-year-old creator was born and grew up in New Zealand. He's Maori and French Canadian on his dad's side, and Jewish and Russian on his mom's side. The self-described "Polynesian Jew" took to the arts early on, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington.

While at the university, Waititi became a part of various comedy ensembles, including the comedy duo The Humorbeasts with Jemaine Clement. The two would later collaborate on Waititi's debut feature, the eccentric rom com "Eagle vs. Shark," as well as an episode of Clement's series "Flight of the Conchords."

After Waititi's second feature, the comedy-drama "Boy," and the vampire mockumentary "What We Do in the Shadows," the director earned critical raves and solid indie box office with the 2016 adventure "Hunt for the Wilderpeople."

"Thor: Ragnarok" brought massive success in 2017. Waititi's unique sense of humor worked quite well alongside the sci-fi action.

And Waititi's World War II dramedy "Jojo Rabbit" brought further critical acclaim. In the film, the Jewish islander plays a fictional version of Adolph Hitler. The imaginary playmate does a bad job of keeping 10-year-old Hitler Youth "Jojo" in line.

© Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved. / courtesy Everett Collection

© Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved. / courtesy Everett Collection

Waititi's film walked a fine line between comedy and serious drama. Still, it was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Scarlett Johanssonn. The actress is amazing as Jojo's mother, who's secretly hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.

The Movie to See

While moviegoers are most familiar with "Jojo Rabbit" and "Thor: Ragnarok," we recommend fans check out Waititi's "Hunt for the Wilderpeople." Sam Neill ("Jurassic Park") and newcomer Julian Dennison play "Uncle" Hector and youngster Ricky Baker. For various reasons, the odd couple head into the New Zealand bush with a manhunt in close pursuit. The movie's a funny and moving account of their friendship. Dennison is a New Zealander of Maori descent who gives a wonderful, breakthrough performance.

© The Orchard /Courtesy Everett Collection

© The Orchard /Courtesy Everett Collection

What's Up Next

Besides "Thor: Love and Thunder," AAPI filmmaker Taika Waititi is set to adapt the documentary "Next Goal Wins" into a feature film. It's the real-life story of the 2014 American Samoan football team – known at the time as one of the weaker teams on the international playing field – as they pursue their dream to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.

About the Author

Chuck Walton

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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