Taika Waititi has become quite a big name in the filmmaking industry, with almost all the projects he participates in having a “guarantee seal” that is going to be something good or entertaining at least.
He is one of my two favorite directors/scriptwriters and I would admit that I had watched almost all of his filmography; Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Boy, Thor Ragnarok, and What We Do In the Shadows being the works I hold dearest.
His comedy has been called “happy sad”, “kiwi comedy”, “tragicomedy” and “dark humor”. He has a talent for the bittersweet being able to turn a funeral scene into a comedy skit & an awareness short film about animal exploitation into a mockumentary that kicks you in the guts while you’re laughing.
The ability of this prowess is often attributed to his nationality, with the director remarking on it but also his Jewish Māori identity. As @dvkerose says in this twitter thread talking on why Waititi is one of his favorite directors:
“This is in part because his particular brand of tragicomedy is one that I find very engaging [...] but also because Waiti’s identity as a Jewish Māori man is ever-present in his body of work”.
Most of his stories are centered around the “outsider” with the definition of it taking a different meaning each time. This idea that his comedy is about “losers" while not unknown takes a distinct approach to other works, in which we are not laughing at the outsider because they are different from us but rather we are laughing because they are us. We’ve been there, maybe not as the God Of Thunder, but as a worried sibling wanting for their family to be better.
Taika Waititi’s comedy doesn’t punch up or down, it just punches. It gives you a character flawed and lets them exist in this wacky world as the main character (s), without dehumanizing them.
There’s also something to be said about how he uses child protagonists, with his first work that gave him international recognition being Two Cars One Night- a short film about a boy and his brother meeting a girl while they wait for their parents. Although it is the rule rather than the exception of adults writing young protagonists if you want a published story focusing on children (for obvious reasons), writing children is something that a lot of authors struggle with.
Waititi on the contrary seems to excel at it, using qualities that are socially accepted of children like overconfidence, curiosity, recklessness and pettiness in favor of his comedy. When watching his films you don’t feel like an “adult” remembering the “good old days” but rather a “young person” experiencing the world with all of its heart-aches and looking for a way to see the fun-side of it.
In recent years Waititi has taken a break from writing and has gone to executive produce a bunch of tv shows: What We Do In The Shadows, Reservoir Dogs and Our Flag Means Death (in which he also stars in). Interestingly enough even though Taika Waititi hasn’t written any of these shows, the comedy presented in these works is often attributed to him.
Is my belief that this is in part because of the “auteur” culture that perpetuates cinema, but also because Waititi gravitates towards this style of comedy - he has a unique sense of humor but, this humor wasn’t built only by him, other authors had taken to a similar style (but obviously not equal).
Its outstanding and admirable how Waititi has been able to hold on to this style of comedy while for example, handling a marvel movie that is part of not only a trilogy but also a cinematic universe for an audience that is estranged from “Kiwi Comedy” or in productions that he did not write like the recent shows he has participate in.
Taika Waititi introduced me to the art of exploring deeply flawed characters in an endearing way that wasn’t making excuses for their actions and it helped me with understanding what kind of stories I wanted to tell.
Since I’m unable to interview Waititi myself, this article is just my own view on his work. My assumptions might be wrong but something is true. I love Taika Waititi’s comedy because it explores what a mess we humans are in the most heartwarming way.
Ari Ochoa Petzo
is a Mexican-Venezuelan bi genderfluid writer. They like dancing to old music and history. In their free time you can find xem trying to coerce their friends to participate in another of their crazy projects.