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Taika Waititi's film Boy premieres in Auckland
Wed, 24 Mar 2010 7:11p.m.
The Boy Producer Ainsley Gardiner, with actors James Rollestno and Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu
Taika Waititiâ€™s new film Boy has its New Zealandâ€™s premiere tonight, after winning awards on the international festival circuit.
Kate Rodger is at the filmâ€™s premiere at Sylvia Park in Auckland. Watch the video.
Click here to watch the video
Full interview with Boy producer Ainsley Gardiner
Wed, 24 Mar 2010 9:17p.m.
New Zealand director Taika Waititi's film Boy has already screened to a sell-out audience at the Sundance Film Festival, and now it's had its New Zealand premiere.
Nightline's Ali Ikram caught up with the film's producer, Ainsley Gardiner, for a chat.
Watch the full interview.
Click here to watch the full interview
'Boy' shows Waititi is all grown up
Robert Smith | Wednesday March 24, 2010 - 05:03pm
Boy might be a silly 11-year-old who thinks he knows everything, but that doesnÂ¹t mean his story canâ€™t have genuine emotional depth and some good jokes.
Taika Waititiâ€™s film Â- his second full-length feature after Eagle vs Shark â€“ is set somewhere in the eighties, far out in the back end of nowhere.
Boy, played by newcomer James Rolleston, might be a long way from the big city and his idol Michael Jackson, but he still has his whanau - a huge network of cousins, aunties and uncles who provide most of the filmâ€™s laughs.
The first 20 minutes of the film are some of the funniest moments in recent New Zealand cinema as it finds humour in the roughest of situations, and there are plenty of funny parts spread throughout the film, with a strong dramatic backdrop.
Itâ€™s more than just laughing at the way the world has changed since the 1980s. The setting is not just about Michael Jackson, bad fashion and calling everybody an egg; itâ€™s also a place where a grandmother can leave an 11 year old in charge of half a dozen younger kids, (forcing them to eat crayfish every night), or teachers who swear back at their pupils.
The film is about growing up - which means more than growing a sad moustache. Itâ€™s about facing reality and learning that fantasy has its place.
Rolleston is excellent in the title role â€“ a charming little rogue who thinks heâ€™s got the whole world sorted out, and there is also a star turn from Waititi, playing Boyâ€™s dad Alamein Â the biggest boy in the film.
Fresh out of jail and obsessed with the hundreds of dollars he stashed in a field somewhere, Alamein is a busy man, refusing to grow up or deal with his grief or any kind of responsibility. Waititi still finds some pride in Alameinâ€™s relentless failure, giving his character real emotional heft.
Itâ€™s no surprise that this star turn saw him snapped up by Hollywood for the upcoming Green Lantern film. Waititi is playing the super heroâ€™s best friend from the original comics, an Inuit once affectionately nicknamed Pieface, ensuring he will be following in Cliff CurtisÂ¹ footsteps by playing every ethnicity on the planet.
If Waititi is heading off to play a succession of Inuit, Arab and vaguely Latin American roles, itâ€™s fitting that the film that is launching him out there is a fundamentally Maori film. Boy says more about Maori culture than far bleaker films set in that world and doesnâ€™t need to rely on heavy-handed moralising to get its point across.
Instead, Boy uses humour to show that life on the poverty line in rural New Zealand can be hard, but that there is not reason not to have a good laugh about it. It shows that whanau can be the best support system in the world, but that there is also a bucketload of responsibility coming back the other way.
Boy is a very funny and surprisingly thoughtful film of buried treasure, lost Mums, super-powers and Michael Jackson. It has one of the saddest scenes involving a goat to ever appear on screen, but still manages to be one of the funniest films in ages. Anybody who misses out on it is a total egg.
Mad about the boy
By TOM CARDY - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 25/03/2010
BOYS' OWN: James Rolleston as Boy, Taika Waititi as Alamein and Te Aho Eketone-Whitu as Rocky in Boy.
Oscar nominee Taika Waititi is back with the comedy drama Boy, set in rural Bay of Plenty in the early 80s â€“ only this time the Wellington film-maker doesn't stay behind the camera - he's also happy to star.
The comedy Eagle vs Shark, shot in Wellington and the most popular Kiwi film at the box office in 2007, was the debut feature from Taika Waititi. But Waititi still sees Boy, shot after Eagle vs Shark as his first film.
Confused? This is because before Eagle vs Shark Waititi wrote the script for what eventually would become Boy, but decided to hold off. "It was a thing that I really wanted to focus on and get right. I just really didn't want to [stuff] it up. That's why I made Eagle really."
Waititi originally planned to make Eagle as a low-budget feature shot on digital video - anything simply to get it made and to learn from the process. "Originally I thought it was something I would just shoot with some friends on the weekend and let the feature form. It's only because we got better funding than we expected that we shot it on film. It got bigger than I thought. Everything always gets bigger than you think."
And Boy has grown up a lot. The comedy drama draws its inspiration from Waititi's 2003 short film Two Cars, One Night, nominated for an Oscar. The acclaimed short featured a young Maori boy and girl waiting in two cars, while family members drink at a rural pub.
Boy started life as Choice - as in cool or wicked - and Waititi developed it at a Sundance Writers Lab in 2005, workshopping it with Hollywood script writers including Frank Pierson (Dog Day Afternoon). During shooting it had the working title The Volcano.
Boy is set in a rural Maori community in the Bay of Plenty in 1984 and was largely shot in Waihau Bay where Waititi alternated his time growing up in nearby Raukokore with stints in Wellington's Aro Valley.
Watch the trailer for Boy
The film is a comedy drama and a coming of age movie. James Rolleston plays the title character, an 11-year-old obsessed with Michael Jackson, who lives with his brother Rocky, his cousins and his Nan. He keeps pining to see his father Alamein, who he imagines is a war hero, deep sea diver and a dancer as good as Jackson. In reality, Alamein, played by Waititi, has just got out of prison after serving time for a bank robbery.
There are many fine performances in Boy, not the least Waititi's - showcasing he's as good a dramatic actor as he is in comic roles - and he's very funny in Boy. But it's Rolleston who is a revelation. He is so convincing, it's hard to imagine he's actually playing someone else.
Waititi says early on he was adamant that for the film to be as authentic as possible it had to be shot in the Bay of Plenty and for a good proportion of the cast to be from the area or have an affinity to it.
"I really didn't want to get a kid from the city and say 'put on this voice for me and pretend you're from the coast'. Just for my own sense of accomplishment, and for the film, I didn't want to be faking a lot of it, so that was a big part of it to get it right."
Waititi says seven months before rehearsals they had cast another child actor in the title role, however when rehearsals began the boy was 12 1/2 and "crossing over into 13-year-old territory". Waititi felt he was now too old. "You are suddenly faced with a young adult rather than an innocent kid."
So he turned to Rolleston and, like the rest of the cast and crew, was rapt with the results. "It's a really honest performance. You can see that he actually gets what he's saying. He's not just saying words. Even when we were shooting I would look around the set and people were staring at each other, 'Oh my God, the kid's amazing'. There's even some amazing stuff that didn't make it into the film."
It wasn't all plain sailing. Waititi says there were times during the shooting that some of the children in the cast would have "a meltdown" and didn't want to work. "But you've just got to buy into that right from the start. You've got to understand that's what you get. You can't force them and you can't rush it. You have to sit it out and once you learn that you relax a bit more."
Waititi watchers will know that the fact he's not only writing and directing Boy, but is also a linchpin on screen, is significant. It's his first big screen role since Snakeskin in 2001.
Waititi is explaining this just days before he flies out to New Orleans for a part in superhero movie Green Lantern, directed by fellow Kiwi Martin Campbell. Waititi says the hardest thing he finds about making movies is at the beginning where he has to get over the "self-worth question".
"When you're on set you're like 'everyone's judging me because I'm the director and everyone thinks I'm doing this because I just love myself and I want to do everything'.
"Part of it's true, I do want to do everything and I do kind of love myself," he jokes.
But he believes playing Alamein was important for the film and that it was right. "I wanted something so specific and I wanted it to be a comedy character that I wasn't finding when I was auditioning. I wanted to move away from 'typically Maori roles' in a film to something that was more like a clumsy, awkward, nerdy character. A step away from the stereotypes of either stoic warrior or drunken wife-beater."
Waititi reckons he's better on screen as an actor now than he was in the early days - including his breakout part in 1999's Scarfies - ironically because he's concentrated on making films instead.
"I did roles that I hated and there were roles that were detrimental to my acting ability. There were roles that I was always doing that were always the comic relief ... it was destroying my soul."
But if there were more roles like Boy's Alamein, Waititi says things would be different. "I wouldn't be a film-maker I would be an actor. I was depressed about the roles that were on offer, so I had to make my own stories."
* Boy is screening now.
HIS BRILLIANT CAREER
How comedian, actor, writer, artist and director Taika Waititi went from wearing a skin-coloured "nudie suit" at Wellington's Bats Theatre to Hollywood movie Green Lantern.
1996: Waititi (as Taika Cohen) stars in comedy show So You're a Man at Bats Theatre with future Flight of the Conchords' stars Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. The three wear skin coloured "nudie suits".
1997: Clement and Waititi (as Cohen) perform as comedy duo Humourbeasts. They win the Spirit of the Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.
1999: Humourbeasts win a $5000 TV2 Billy T Award for up-and-coming comics. Waititi (as Cohen) gets a big part in the movie Scarfies.
2000: Waititi, Clement and McKenzie perform in the classic play The Frogs by Aristophanes. Humourbeasts hold fundraising shows to perform at Canadian comedy festivals. Nominated for best actor in the Nokia Film Awards for Scarfies.
2001: Waititi (as Cohen) lands big part in Snakeskin alongside Melanie Lynskey.
2003: Waititi makes his first short film Two Cars, One Night.
2004: Two Cars, One Night wins best short film Hamburg Shorts Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Aspen Shortfest and Berlin Film Festival and is nominated for the best short film Oscar. Waititi makes second short Tama Tu and tours solo stage show Taika's Incredible Show.
2005: Waititi attends the Oscars and pretends to be asleep when his name is read out as a nominee. Tamu Tu wins jury prize at Berlin Film Festival, best short fiction film at Melbourne International Film Festival, special jury award at Aspen Shortfest, special jury mentions at Sundance and Berlin film festivals. In November he begins shooting debut feature Eagle vs Shark in Wellington.
2007: Eagle vs Shark co-star Loren Horsley wins best actress award at Newport International Film Festival. Film is the top grossing Kiwi film at the New Zealand box office. Waititi writes and directs Flight of the Conchords episode Drive By, which airs in July in the United States. He also directs the episode New Fans, written by Scarfies co-writer Duncan Sarkies.
2008: Eagle vs Shark nominated for best picture, best director, best screenplay in the Qantas Film and Television Awards. Waititi wins best director.
2009: Writes and directs Flight of the Conchords episode New Zealand Town. He also directs the final Flight of the Conchords episode Evicted.
2010: Boy has world premiere at Sundance Film Festival and wins top prize 60th Berlin International Film Festival in the category for young viewers. Waititi won't be able to attend the Auckland premiere of Boy this week due to his role in superhero movie Green Lantern, being shot in New Orleans. Waititi is playing the Green Lantern's sidekick, based on the character Thomas Kalmaku.
Ooo! I didn't know Taika was in Snakeskin! That came out while I was living in England so I missed it - I'm gonna have to go rent it now! Thanks Venus!Venus wrote:2001: Waititi (as Cohen) lands big part in Snakeskin alongside Melanie Lynskey.
By Peter Calder 4:00 AM
Thursday Mar 25, 2010
Verdict: Funny, heartbreaking, wonderful.
Waititi has crafted an extraordinary film, perfectly matched by the performances of James Rolleston and Te Aho Eketone-Whitu. Photo / Supplied
Waititi has crafted an extraordinary film, perfectly matched by the performances of James Rolleston and Te Aho Eketone-Whitu. Photo / SuppliedTaika Waititi calls this his first feature, even though it arrives after the lovably deadpan Eagle vs Shark. It's not hard to see why. It develops ideas first broached in his Oscar-nominated short film Two Cars, One Night but, more importantly, it is plainly a portrait painted from the artist's own childhood experience. There's plenty that's playful in Boy - indeed its opening half hour is often falling-down funny - but there's pain, too. It may seem slight, but this is a film of mighty heart.
It's set in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, where Waititi grew up (the two most striking locations are the Raukokore River mouth and Waihau Bay), and it fairly hums with the director's ambivalent affection for the place. The title character (Rolleston) is the eldest in a family of kids who, for reasons that will become obvious, are being raised by their grandmother. When she hops in the Humber 80 and heads off to a distant tangi, Boy is left in charge.
Night has barely fallen when a man arrives whom Boy has never met - his father. Alamein (Waititi) is just out of the slammer and he's come home on a very specific mission. It's not to see Boy or his brother Rocky (Eketone-Whitu), who is carrying his own burden from the past, but it takes the boys some time to realise that.
Alamein's absence has created the space for Boy to idealise his dad - as a war hero, a diver, even a relation of Boy's hero, Michael Jackson - and the film tracks the process by which he comes to terms with the reality that Dad's a drug-addled loser who's notably less mature than his 11-year-old son.
It's hard to praise too highly the pitch-perfect tone of this movie. The opening half hour is rich in self-deprecating and subtly anarchic humour ("Not crayfish, again," whine the little ones when he plonks dinner on the table). But like the clown who hides his sorrow with a smile, the filmmaker is softening us up for the main story.
Boy's coming of age is a heartbreaking loss of innocence, and in charting the shifting relationship between absent father and adoring son, Waititi unerringly fingers a great malaise of recent generations.
It sounds grim, but the film has an extraordinary lightness of touch, which illuminates a sobering story with a sense of sunny hope. That quality is all of a piece with its distinctively Maori voice: a small urupa (graveyard) is a key part of the narrative and Shortland's character, a local loon who is both tohunga and taniwha, is a benign guiding influence.
The three main performances are knockout as well, intense yet effortless and all perfectly matched. This is a very strong piece of work that will quickly become a classic.
Cast: James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi, Waihoroi Shortland, Rachel House
Director: Taika Waititi
Running time: 88 mins
Rating: M (drug use, offensive language)
Boy - film review by Kate Rodger
Thu, 25 Mar 2010 11:51a.m.
Taika Waititi in a scene from Boy
Watch Kate's video review.
Click here to watch the video
the legendary kiwi who directed, wrote, and starred in BOY!
I'm going to stop being irreverent & sarcastic & silly for just a sec and say I'm seriously STOKED at the mad awesome reviews for my BOY...
Atta boy, Taika
Last updated 08:19 26/03/2010
CAMERA, ACTION: Taika Waititi at work on Boy.
Taika Waititi talks to MARGARET AGNEW about directing and acting in his new film, and being told by an American critic his film isn't authentically Maori.
Taika Waititi is a busy man - far too busy to go to the New Zealand premiere of his second feature film, Boy. Which is a shame, because it's a thoroughly entertaining little film about growing up in smalltown New Zealand in the 80s and the hometown crowd are going to love it. The locals may enjoy it even more than the audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where Boy was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, and more than the Berlin International Film Festival crowd that awarded Waititi the grand prize for best feature film.
What the film has already done is drawn attention to the multi-talented, Oscar- nominated, writer-director's acting.
Waititi had only a small window of time to talk about his sophomore feature film before flying to the New Orleans set of Green Lantern.
He agrees that a Kiwi audience, especially those Kiwis who grew up in the 80s will be more receptive to Boy's idiosyncratically distinctive charms. "I think people who were there at the time will get a lot of the little references - calling somebody an 'egg', things like that are really of our time." Waititi's young cast members "were definitely questioning why they were calling each other 'egg' ".
The cast is made up largely of children who've never acted before, and the pint-sized amateurs do an amazing job lending a stark authenticity to their central roles.
Waititi says it was a long process, "about a year-and-a-half all up", to find the two lead actors to play young brothers Boy and Rocky.
"Rocky [played by Te Aho Aho Eketone- Whitu] we found about three months out, and Boy [James Rolleston] we found two days before we started shooting."
Originally, when Waititi wrote the first script years ago, it was called Choice, but he thought that gave the impression it was about pregnancy, "so I changed it to Volcano, as a reference to White Island-Whakaari, which was almost like a character in the film at one point". While he shot a lot of "volcano stuff" it ended up on the cutting room floor. "We were left with a story about a kid," he laughs. "It was either going to be called Kid or Boy."
His is notably a much larger acting role than Waititi's taken on before, bigger even than his Moro bar TV advert in 2001, he notes. Working on Boy he had to juggle the roles of actor, director and scriptwriter, but says it only took him about a week to adjust. "I would rewrite stuff in my head as we'd go, also I had a lot of help on set with producers giving me feedback. If something felt weak, they'd let me know. It was important to have outside eyes. Part of it was letting go of departments I didn't need to be so anal about, such as the camera and the art department. Especially when I was acting, I put a lot more trust in them to do their jobs."
Waititi says that it's the sort of role which, if it had come up 10 years ago, he would have turned down. "I love acting as long as it's interesting - as long as it's fun. What stopped me in the past was the roles sucked."
It sounds like Waititi is joking but he says what turned him to directing was the lack of meaty acting roles for young Maori. Disheartened, he didn't want to play "a tribesman or the comic-relief friend for a main Pakeha character". He and his Humourbeasts comedy partner, Jemaine Clement, went on to create work for themselves, with Clement gaining small-screen success in the United States with Flight of the Conchords.
Waititi admits he wasn't into making films when he was a kid. "All these film-makers like Peter Jackson are like: 'Oh, we made 8-millimetre war films when we were 10 and stuff. I never had a chance to do that. It was only since I was 27 that I got an opportunity to make those things, so I've really embraced it."
As well as his debut feature, Eagle Vs Shark, Waititi has made a range of short films and music videos, especially for frequent musical collaborators - and Boy soundtrack composers - The Phoenix Foundation. "That's really fun and liberating," he says. "Basically, that stuff comes from just hanging out with mates."
Part of his do-it-yourself attitude was born of necessity. "No-one would ever put us in their plays."
He describes his friends/collaborators as "a ragtag bunch who came out of Bats theatre". Small theatres Bats in Wellington and the Silo in Auckland were where he and Clement would experiment with their prop-based comedy "and just try to make things work".
"It was very arts-and-crafty, which is still reflected in all the animation in Boy [which] I did myself at a cafe down the road."
Sitting in Dizzengoff with his coloured pencils, Waititi drew a series of pictures to illustrate a child's eye view of the world.
Boy is a personal journey in many ways. It's set in the rural town Waititi grew up in, and in the house where the young Waititi lived, using props from his childhood. He says that the film uses elements from his childhood situation, "but the actual narrative and the plot and the premise is fictitious".
The art department drew inspiration from his old family photos. The shoot in the house included "a sugar bowl that's been in the house since my dad was a kid", but these details are not likely to be picked up by the wider audience. However, Waititi insists: "I didn't want this to be like an exorcism of my own personal demons. I didn't want it to be a specific episode from my childhood."
The story, despite its distinctly Kiwi setting, is more universal. Waititi says that teenagers in Germany have particularly responded to it. "So that's a success for me - making something that is accessible to international audiences. There's no point making a film that no-one can relate to or that people feel they're being excluded from.
"If you had a parent, it's basically your story, because I don't think anyone really knows who their parents are - what goes on in their heads or what their hopes and dreams were, how they see themselves in the world. I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out myself."
Not all reactions have been glowing. There was a rather negative response from Variety magazine that in Boy Waititi had "scrubbed away any culturally specific traits". Waititi's response to that is: "They're just f..king idiots. You can quote me on that".
"I don't care if someone doesn't get it, I can handle that. But what I can't handle is someone who's not from here and who's probably never met a Maori, probably never been to a Maori community, giving their opinion on how authentic the Maori content is in my movie. Someone from America saying that there wasn't enough spirituality in it for it to be culturally specific to my Maoridom. The point is, it's not culturally specific. It could happen anywhere. It doesn't need kids riding around on whales. I don't mean this to sound like a tirade, but I've had bad reviews and I can handle that. I mean, no-one can make a film that every single person in the world likes."
Then Waititi - who seems unable to be serious for very long - cuts through his non- tirade with: "Unless you made Hurt Locker, which is awesome. Or Back To The Future. Or ET."
Of his own film, he says he knows people will relate to it. "The best films are the ones where you're still thinking about it when you're in bed."
He gives an example of how not to do it: "I went to see 2012. As I was walking down the escalator, I'd already forgotten what happened in the entire movie.
"I just want Boy to resonate with people and that's the best I can hope for."
Taika gets the green light
Missing the New Zealand premiere of his own feature film, Boy, Taika Waititi is playing Thomas Kalmaku in Warner Bros' new 3D superhero feature Green Lantern, which began shooting in New Orleans last week with Ryan Reynolds in the lead role. The cast of the new comicbook adaptation, directed by New Zealander Martin Campbell, also includes Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Blake Lively and Tim Robbins. The original Kalmaku, described by Waititi as the hero Hal Jordan's "best buddy", was an Inuit. However, Waititi's not sure his role requires him to actually take on Eskimo ethnicity. "In the comicbook my character is originally, like, Alaskan, but I think they threw that away when they couldn't find [an Inuit] to play it. I kind of look ethnic still, so maybe people will think he's not white and he's not black and he's not Hispanic, he must be an Eskimo," he says. Fellow Kiwi Temuera Morrison also stars in the film as Abin Sur - the Green Lantern who gives Hal Jordan his power ring before dying.
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