Park City film hops to it with ‘Jojo Rabbit’
What: ‘Jojo Rabbit’
When: 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17 and 18; 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19
Where: Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.
Cost: $8 for general admission; $7 for seniors and students; $6 for Park City Film Members
With one weekend left before Sundance, Park City Film executive director Katharine Wang says she is happy to present the weekend screenings of “Jojo Rabbit” on Jan. 17-19 at the Jim Santy Auditorium.
The film, which is rated PG-13, not only garnered six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, it had already turned people’s heads with Golden Globe nominations that included Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor. And it also won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
“There are all kinds of accolades from the critic community, but this is also a challenging film,” she said. “It takes place in World War II, and is about the banality of evil and how deceptively easy it is to succumb to idolatry.”
“Jojo Rabbit” is a coming-of-age story about Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis, a German boy whose evolution is seen through interactions with a young Jewish girl, portrayed by Thomasin McKenzie, who is being hidden in his attic by his mother, played by Scarlett Johanssen. Jojo’s imaginary friend – who takes the form of Adolf Hitler, played by director Taika Waititi – guides him through his journey.
“These interactions force Jojo to confront the hateful propaganda that is fed to him by the Hitler Youth,” Wang said. “He’s a stand-in for everyone else in humanity to confront prejudices you may accept and see people who they really are.”
Creating a comedy where Hitler is a character is a feat not to be taken lightly, but it has been done before in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” according to Wang.
“So to take this on is an accomplishment for Taika Waititi to do it well and hit the right tone to bring up some of these topics,” she said. “In this case, he plays off of Beatlemania and likens that to the Nazi youth.”
Wang also feels Waititi has a unique insight into these themes because of who he is.
“He comes from New Zealand, and he is half Jewish,” she said. “I think he has been able to take on this story with a little more authority due to his background.”
Waititi addressed his vision in a statement he released when the film was released.
“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,” he said.
Roman Griffin Davis deserved his Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, Wang said.
“It’s fascinating to see how a young actor can show how his character grapples with what he is being told and find that awakening to do what is right through his own sense of moral responsibility and agency,” she said. “It’s fascinating to see him do it so well.”
Waititi also knew the stakes when taking on the role of Adolf Hitler in a comedy.“When it was announced that he would do this, everyone thought, ‘How will or can he do this,’ and Taika has gone on to say he didn’t do any research for the role,” Wang said. “He’s a simplistic avatar as an imaginary friend. And he had to tread carefully and not be totally dismissive or horrifying.”
Wang said the conversations of prejudice and nationalism that are addressed in “Jojo Rabbit” are timeless.
“Unfortunately, in the current era, it has really struck a chord,” she said. “I think the way he handles these things is well received because he does it consciously and thoughtfully. He doesn’t just do it for laughs, even though the movie is a satirical comedy to, in a way, make the story more accessible to audiences.”
Wang is excited that Park City Film, as an arthouse organization, is screening “Jojo Rabbit” the weekend before the Sundance Film Festival.
“It’s a powerful film and it certainly warrants a good audience to start conversations it invites to our community,” she said.
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