The Gift that is Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi, Natalie Portman and Timothee Chalamet at the 2020 Oscars
Credit to Tumblr

I’ve been a fan of Taika’s ever since I discovered his talent in the movie “Boy”. If you haven’t yet seen this film, you really should and not just because Taika both wrote and directed this film, but because it’s just wonderful. And strolling through my social media yesterday I noticed a lot of people were talking about Taika because of his fantastic win at the Academy Awards.

I know that there are people who shun the award system in Hollywood. I suppose they have good reasons to feel this way. But every now and then I think the awards do something really special. What hurts me more than anything however, is that when Taika won his Oscar for JoJo Rabbit, he was the first person of Maori ancestry to do so AND the first person of colour to ever be nominated. TO EVER BE nominated.

Those words resonated with me on a personal level. How does this happen? If you watch the video clip of Taika receiving his award, you can tell he is conflicted; joyful because winning an Academy award pretty much tells the entire world that you’ve made it in the film industry. But I sensed a little melancholy underneath his smile. It is 2020 and Taika was the first “person of colour” to even be nominated for that award. Is it that a movie adaptation of a novel could only be successfully created by someone that is not a person of colour? I don’t understand this.

Taika Waititi, Natalie Portman and Timothee Chalanet at the 2020 Oscars
Credit to Tumblr

I don’t like writing about things that hit so close to home but hearing about Taika and what he said when he won his award really annoyed me. He shouldn’t be the first person of colour ever to be nominated for a book adaptation academy award, but he is. And that is a tragedy. And if that wasn’t enough, he is also the first person of Maori descent to win.

Flipping this on its head, are we actually saying that there just hasn’t been any person of colour good enough to win? Or are we saying that “people of colour” just don’t think they could ever excel in a field that is dominated by people who aren’t of colour? Or is it because the system used to judge who should win these awards is inherently flawed?

Taika is special, but not because he is of Maori descent or a person of colour. He’s special because there’s no denying the talent that he has. And it doesn’t matter that he won an award to prove this. His talent shines in the creation of art, something that anyone can create irrespective of the boundaries of race or religion or anything else that people use to define themselves. Art is blind. And thank goodness it is. And thank goodness for Taika. He gives me hope that things can change.