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BOY

Taika Cohen and Taika Waititi, one and the same overachiever extraordinaire.

by emira » Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:45 pm

Taika Waititi draws on his experience for 'Boy'

Pam Grady

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Much like the young hero of his comedy-drama "Boy," Taika Waititi grew up in a small Maori village in New Zealand. The film is not autobiographical, but the 36-year-old filmmaker admits that in 1984, when the movie is set, as with Boy (James Rolleston), moon-walking and break dancing were among his favorite pastimes and he worshiped Michael Jackson.

"He was one of our biggest heroes growing up, for myself and all my cousins who were my age," Waititi remembers. "For a bunch of Maori kids living in the middle of nowhere to see this black guy make it huge, it was quite a big deal. There weren't too many role models when we were growing up in New Zealand. Bob Marley or whoever else was on TV - Benson."

Jackson looms large over "Boy," a part of Boy's vivid fantasy life, one in which his father, Alamein (Waititi), is also a major player. In the child's mind, his dad is bigger than life, a brave and adventurous soul. No flesh-and-blood being could live up to Boy's imagination, but Alamein is especially ill-equipped for the role his son has assigned him, not that Boy realizes that at first.

When the reprobate ex-con shows up after a years-long absence, declaring himself the leader of a gang called Crazy Horse and insisting that everyone call him Shogun, Boy takes him at his word. It takes a while for the kid, whose mother died several years before and who has been yearning for a parent, to realize that his old man is every bit the dreamer that he is.

A fantasy world

"Everyone's sort of living in a fantasy world," Waititi says. "What kind of compounds it all is that the father is even worse with his fantasies of himself, and so it kind of confuses Boy. The father talks about himself in such romantic, ludicrous ways, comparing himself to samurais and outlaws. You don't even know what he is; he just keeps everything romantic and kind of what he thinks is cool. Everything is always a shift away from being yourself and being who you're supposed to be.

"I always loved this idea of kids who are more mature than their parents, the ones who are parenting the grown-ups. I really wanted to tell a story about a family that is really disconnected and lost because of the loss of someone, and the ways that they try to replace that person and the ways that they are trying to kind of connect with each other, but they are stumbling along and sort of skirting around the issue."

Slow progress

"Boy's" significance to Waititi can be measured in its slow progress to the screen. After getting his start as a stand-up comedian and actor, Waititi turned to filmmaking, garnering a 2005 Academy Award nomination for best live-action short for "Two Cars, One Night." "Boy" marked his first feature script, and he workshopped his initial draft in 2005 at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. Yet when he had an opportunity to shoot his first feature, he opted to put "Boy" on the back burner and instead make the 2007 comedy "Eagle vs. Shark."

"The main thing really was I wanted to make a feature film, but I didn't know how," he says. " 'Boy' was a more important story to me, so I decided to take a break and learn how to make a feature film and then come back to it once I figured out my stuff. It was actually the right thing to do. 'Eagle vs. Shark' was a great film. I still really love it, but if I had tried to make 'Boy' first, I think it would be very different from what it is now.
Some lightness

"It was important to tonally get this film right. It was important to have comedy and some lightness and also not shy away from the pathos as well. In the writing, I spent a lot of time trying to get that right. Then we were shooting, I would always sort of do a comedy pass and then a dramatic version. Then again in the editing, we really had to struggle with making sure that the film didn't start off funny and then become too depressing, or vice versa. It was just a big balancing act."

Waititi took a gamble, recruiting nonprofessionals to play Boy and his friends and family because authenticity was important to him. He didn't want child actors from Auckland trying to imitate the rural accent he'd grown up around. That insistence on keeping things real led him to shoot not just in his hometown in Waihau Bay but also in the school that he attended as a child and the house he lived in, a homecoming that delighted his family as much as it did him.

"It was really amazing. My family all still live there, and my auntie still lives in the house that I grew up in," he says. "For the kitchen, we painted that to the exact colors that it used to be in '80s. That was very strange for our family, as well, to walk in there and be suddenly reminded of everything that went on in that house growing up for me and my cousins.

"It was just a really nice experience for the people who were actually there in the '80s to see this town re-created in that way. It was really important for me to take the film home and do it there with these people. My auntie was the head of the kitchen and did all the catering. My cousin was the head chef and designed the menus and stuff. It was nepotism in its sincerest form, really."

No Jackson music

One person who didn't make the final cut was Michael Jackson. Waititi set aside money in his budget to pay for the late pop icon's "Thriller"-era hits to decorate the soundtrack, only to realize that the reality of them was at odds with "Boy's" fantasy-tinged world.

"In the editing, we put them in and we just realized that they sort of detracted from the story," he says. "I kind of felt that they pulled you out of it a little bit. Hearing a gigantic song like 'Billy Jean' or 'Beat It' in the middle of a sort of weird little independent film set in a Maori community in New Zealand was too distracting."

Boy (not rated) opened this weekend at Bay Area theaters.

To see a trailer, go to boythefilm.com.

SFGate
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by emira » Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:09 pm

Interview: Taika Waititi

New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi began his entertainment career in comedy, though he can't seem to get away from the allure of drama.

Early on he met Jemaine Clement and the two formed a successful comedy team. That led to writing and directing work on Clement's beloved TV series "Flight of the Conchords," as well as giving Clement a starring role in Waititi's feature debut Eagle vs. Shark (2007).

Prior to that, Waititi wrote and directed a series of short films, one of which, Two Cars, One Night (2004), received an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short. Last summer he found his widest audience yet, cast as Ryan Reynolds' best friend in GreenLantern.

But his new film Boy seems to encompass all his skills, strengths, and interests at once, perhaps pointing the way to a promising future.

Set in the 1980s in New Zealand, Boy is a unique coming of age story. "Boy" (James Rolleston) is an 11-year old whose mother has died. He cares for his younger siblings while his grandmother is away. His most notable sibling is his younger brother Rocky (Aho Eketone-Whitu), who believes he has super-powers. Rocky doesn't remember their mother as well as Boy does, and visits her grave often.

Waititi understands that the great coming-of-age movies, like Truffaut's The 400 Blows, deal with pain as well as pleasure and memory. "This is my '400 Blows,' a mix of pain and magic," he says during a recent visit to San Francisco. "Bumbling around discovering that your heroes aren't heroes, and that love is painful, but also at the same time, still believing in magic and still having fantasies."

Into this setting Boy and Rocky's father Alamein (played by Waititi) returns. Alamein is a victim of arrested development, playing around in a "gang" called the Crazy Horses, and pretending to be cool. Boy, of course, thinks he actually is cool and relishes any attention he gets from his dad, even if it turns out to be bad.

"Dads get away with not being the most present person," says Waititi. "And even if they are very present, they're not as present as the mother. And as a result, because they're not there, they're this mysterious thing. You want to be part of their world; you want to impress them, and be like them."

Waititi says that he didn't really base the Alamein character on his own father. He says he was more interested in exploring the idea of what loss can really do to people. "I wanted people to sort of understand where he was coming from," he says. "He probably was a great guy at some point, but losing the love of your life can do crazy stuff to people. Really, those three characters are all trying to replace this person, trying to deal with loss in a kind of strange way. So all three of those characters really, I feel like they're all in some way a version of me -- versions of all of us, really."

Another running theme in the movie is the characters' love of Michael Jackson. Waititi even goes so far as to create parts of Jackson's famous "Beat It" music video (when Boy imagines his father's bravery and heroism). In the 1980s, when the story takes place, Jackson was still on top of the world. But a couple of decades later, he was all but an outcast. "He's another fallen hero," Waititi. "It makes you wonder: can't any heroes just stay heroes? He was alive when we were filming. We were like, 'Well... maybe he'll get to see it and he'll be reminded what a hero he was.' But he died when we were editing."

On top of everything else, Boy is actually a seamless blend of comedy and drama, which manages to stay balanced throughout. Waititi thought about this consciously while editing the film. "You have to inject bits of humor and bits of life in there, so it doesn't feel like two films stuck together."

Oddly, as a funny person, Waititi prefers to watch dramas in his spare time. "I don't want to make dramas, but I enjoy watching them. Kramer vs. Kramer is one of my favorites, and it's not funny, but it does have little moments of life."

Up next for Waititi, he hopes to begin shooting a vampire movie with Clement this summer. But before then, "I'm going to be a dad in May," he says. "I can't wait!"

March 15, 2012

Jeffrey M. Anderson blog
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by emira » Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:50 am

Q&A with Director Taika Waititi

I sat down with New Zealand born writer, director, comedian, actor Taika Waititi. We talk about his new film Boy, hero worship, the challenges of independent film, and Michael Jackson.

Thanks for taking time to speak with me Taika. How did you begin writing the story for Boy?

Taika Waititi: I knew I wanted to set a film in a particular part of New Zealand, in the 80’s, during a time when I was growing up. They say write what you know, I just wanted to put in a lot of stuff from the time when I grew up. I found it very interesting, in the 80’s, in a small town kids really looked out for each other. I just wanted to tell a story about some cool kids in those days. The story evolved from that starting point, to wanting to tell a story about a kid who has fantasies about who his dad is and wanting to see his dad come home. The story is not autobiographical at all really. I was just inspired a lot by films like The 400 Blows and just kids who ruled their own lives. I guess the autobiographical and personal part of the film is where it’s set. That’s my hometown. I grew up there and that’s my grandmother’s house in the film.

You wrote, directed, and acted as well. Was that exhausting for you or was it easier to do all three roles at the same time?

TW: It wasn’t exhausting. I would say the first week was a little difficult because I was just getting my head around those three roles and having to come in to rewrite, mocking things as a director, and setting myself into scenes. It was a little difficult at first, but then you get into a rhythm once you do stuff enough and you get sort of short hand between you and the rest of the crew and you know exactly what you need to do. It started getting easier and easier.

Going back to what you said about the movie being set in a time period. Was that why you chose to have a Michael Jackson influence in the movie?

TW: Yeah. He was huge in New Zealand when we were growing up. Without a doubt he was the biggest star in the world.

Part of the film deals with hero worship with have with adults in our lives when we’re kids. Do you remember when you realized one of your heroes wasn’t exactly who you thought they were?

TW: I can’t remember an exact time. For us, we spent most of our time with other kids. We saw adults as these strange tall things that were just weird and would feed you and you’d go off and hang with more kids. Kids are always very savvy. It doesn’t take long for a kid to realize when an adult is a loser [laughs]. It’s not that they were losers; it’s just that we were very clued up.

My dad is Superman to me. When I first saw him cry it didn’t connect with me. I didn’t know what was going on. My dad was always funny, so it blew me away because I didn’t know.

TW: For sure. That stuff is always really intense to see.

What do you think it is that makes Boy such a success and makes people gravitate to the story?

TW: I guess the themes are pretty universal. As we were just talking about realizing your heroes are flawed and they have weaknesses. Within families there’s a disconnect. Sometimes you start realizing that people you’re supposed to be closes too, there are huge distances between you. Within the family unit you have people you grew up with who are suppose to be your brother, father, or your mother who are almost like strangers and acquaintances. Those things everyone can relate to. The reason in New Zealand it did so well is New Zealanders seeing themselves onscreen. We don’t see many comedies and it plays sort of like a comedy down there. Then realizing ‘Oh we can make films like this’. Because we don’t make that many films, I think audiences were relieved it was good. People came back again and again and were really supportive.

It must’ve been awesome having your film received so well at home.

TW: It was amazing

One of the things that may have been connected people is the main character being a child. We can connect with that wonderment and curiosity of a child. Even having heroes like Michael Jackson. Sometimes we forget we were once kids who looked up to people.

TW: We all have those people don’t we.

Is there anything you hope people take away from the film?

TW: A ticket stub [laughs]

[Laughs] That’s good. Is there anything else?

TW: We live in an age where it’s very hard for independent films to get made. Independent films are really the best ones out there. They’re the most original stories and they’re very good. It’s very difficult to get films seen, especially in an environment where the market is being driven by big films that are easy to sell. Films that are easy to sell happen to be the worst films. Look at the poster for Wrath of the Titans and John Carter, they’re exactly the same. You could switch titles. One dude fighting two gigantic monsters. Sure people know what they’re getting when they go to pay their $12. It’s more of a risk to take on small films, but I really think this film is good. Across the board it’s had fantastic reviews. It’s the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time. I’ve gotten amazing responses from people. We can’t rely on spending $10 million dollars on advertising. What we’re relying on is that old system before people started spending money on advertising films. It’s the old system of people loving the film and talking about it. Getting the word of mouth out there. I want people to actually go see it that day or the next day. If no one goes to see the film, the theater has to move the film. That’s how it works. We’re flying by the seat of our pants. We could be here next week or we could not. That’s just how it works.

It’s interesting you say that about Independent films. I had a director tell me the reason he loved doing Independent film was because he felt you could put any director in a big budget film and they would do the same type of movie.

TW: Exactly. I’ve been offered scripts to do things in Hollywood and I’ve turned a lot of stuff down because I feel the same way. I feel like I don’t see any of my voice in here.

That’s exactly what he said

TW: I see this as a film with a star who drives the box office and he’ll drive the way it’s shot. I feel like the directors name is just a name that shows up somewhere in the credits. Look like some of the more star driven things, who’s the director of Wrath of the Titans?

I can’t remember………

TW: I think most people would draw a blank. You’re going to see Sam Worthington fight monsters. You aren’t going to see a film because it was made by ‘that guy’. People will see Prometheus for Ridley Scott because he has actual vision and that film looks amazing. Independent film is way more interesting to me. You see more original voices on screen.

Just like your film is an original story. When am I ever going to a film about a young boy in New Zealand?

TW: Yes. Who loves Michael Jackson.

Boy is now playing at Landmark Varsity Theater

SeattlePi: People's Critic: Film Reviews
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by gezyka » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:56 pm

Image


^ First time seeing an actual Boy poster in person on the day that I finally got to see Boy, and on the big screen.

Verdict: yes, it was worth the wait. #cloud9#
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by chrissycubana » Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:50 pm

gezyka wrote:
Verdict: yes, it was worth the wait. #cloud9#


#evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin#
Image


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by gezyka » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:15 am

chrissycubana wrote:
gezyka wrote:
Verdict: yes, it was worth the wait. #cloud9#


#evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin# #evilgrin#

#haha# #glomp#
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by emira » Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:17 pm

gezyka wrote:
Image


^ First time seeing an actual Boy poster in person on the day that I finally got to see Boy, and on the big screen.

Verdict: yes, it was worth the wait. #cloud9#


Pitty that Taika didn't come to Austin for a Q&A. :(

Next time? #cheer#
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by gezyka » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:27 pm

emira wrote:Pitty that Taika didn't come to Austin for a Q&A. :(

Next time? #cheer#

Yeah, he was doing one in Atlanta that day. I was actually surprised that it opened where it did and not the Drafthouse, especially since he said on twitter that he wanted to go there again. The theatre it's at is more in the suburbs than the cool part of town, but they show a lot of foreign and arty films. My guess is that if it ever opens at the Drafthouse, that would be more of the place for a Q&A.
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by emira » Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:53 pm

@RoxySaskatoon Taika Waititi's ‪#Boy‬ opens at The Roxy on Friday, August 10th!


The Roxy website.

Ami!!! #squee#
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by emira » Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:42 pm

So, is BOY in Canada yet? #excited2#


*******************

One of many photos I got today to download from Taika for being a patient backer. /:) #blowkiss#

Image
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by emira » Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:09 am

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Kickstarting an army


/:) #blowkiss#
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by emira » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:08 am

too much!! @TaikaWaititi draws us 'Boy as the Statue of Liberty' for backing him on @kickstarter pic.twitter.com/DDJE535T

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#excited#
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by Amily » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:46 pm

Love it! ;D

Sounds like more and more people are receiving their pledging gifts lately. Looking SO forward to mine... can't wait to hang the poster in my new place in the new year. #excited#
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by emira » Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:39 pm

Amily wrote:Love it! ;D

Sounds like more and more people are receiving their pledging gifts lately. Looking SO forward to mine... can't wait to hang the poster in my new place in the new year. #excited#


Same! It's also about time to get something from Uncle Bertie or Songs for Christchurch. 8-)
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by emira » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:00 pm

I'm now a patched up member of the Crazy Horses. Chur @TaikaWaititi aka Shogun for the Xmas delivery. pic.twitter.com/GhKrTYlk

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#excited2#
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