Taika Waititi's upcoming 'anti-hate' satire Jojo Rabbit has been awarded the People's Choice Award at TIFF 2019. The Fox Searchlight movie focuses on a young boy in Nazi Germany who finds a young Jewish girl in his house, being cared for by his mother. Waititi, the New Zealand born director, also stars in the film as Jojo's imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler.
Jojo Rabbit is adapted from the novel Caged Skies by author Christine Leunens, but the concept of an imaginary friend in the visage of the evil dictator who acts as a paternal figure for the main character was added to the script by Waititi. The director, whose family are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, was first introduced to the novelization by his own mother and later began production on the film after the success of his film Thor: Ragnarok.
After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week, audiences chose Jojo Rabbit for the coveted spot of the People's Choice Award, beating out films like Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Winning this award is usually a strong indication that a film will also receive a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. And despite not being a definitive prediction for who could win the top prize at the Oscars, previous Best Picture winners Green Book, The King's Speech, and 12 Years A Slave all took of home the People's Choice Award at TIFF.
The satire, which was criticized by some reviewers for not being audacious enough, certainly seems to have made a positive impact at its debut in Toronto, with Waititi being thankful for the response. In particular, much praise has been given to Roman Griffin Davis, the young actor who plays Jojo in what is his first acting role. New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson have also received praise for their performances as the Jewish girl, Elsa, and Jojo's mother, Rosie. Johansson is also starring in the Noah Baumbach's film, Marriage Story, which was the first runner-up for TIFF's People's Choice Award.
Although some of the critical reception towards Jojo Rabbit is mixed, the People's Choice Award and further reviews suggest it's a film that's not to be underestimated. It either may or may not have been true that some Disney execs were worried about the optics of Jojo Rabbit (what with the film's trailer featuring such gleeful depictions of Waititi as Hitler), but regardless, the largely positive response coming out of TIFF and other early screenings is sure to ease any possible concerns. The anti-hate flick will next be shown to critics in the U.K. at the BFI London Film Festival in October, before releasing in U.S. theaters on October 18.
- Jojo Rabbit (2019) release date: Oct 18, 2019