There were very few awards that I cared about at the Oscars last night—mainly anything that Taika Waititi, Greta Gerwig, 1917, or Parasite were nominated for. So, when Jojo Rabbit won for Best Adapted Screenplay, I found myself cheering and overcome with excitement.
The first Māori director/screenwriter to take home the Academy Award, Waititi delivered a beautiful and inspiring speech, calling out to those Indigenous children who want to create and tell stories and sharing that they, too, can end up on that stage.
A speech that truly is inspiring comes with the knowledge that Waititi is one of very few Indigenous creators actually nominated by the Academy—not just this year, but ever. He’s only the second creator of Māori descent to be nominated at all. The first was Keisha Castle-Hughes in 2004 for her performance in Whale Rider, and Taika Waititi himself was the second in 2005 for his short film Two Cars, One Night. Since then, the only other nominee of Māori descent? Waititi, this year, for Jojo Rabbit.
What’s sad about it is not only has there been amazing work from Māori creators in the meantime (including Waititi himself, with Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople), but it seems as if the Academy has just left their work out of their “prestige” viewing because they weren’t huge topics of conversation within the American cinema world.
Part of my problem with the Oscars is that they’ll take this year, which made history with wins for Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit and Bong Joon-Ho for Parasite, and pat themselves on the back when just last year, they awarded the controversial “feel-good racism movie” Green Book with the highest award of the night.
So, my question now is, are they going to continue to look at not just Waititi’s work, but that of other Indigenous creators and creators of color, from here on out? While Jojo Rabbit was my favorite movie of last year (among others like Parasite and Rocketman), it is just one in a catalog of brilliant work from Waititi, something the Academy would have known had they kept their eyes on his work after literally nominating him for an Oscar back before Boy, Eagle vs Shark, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and even What We Do In The Shadows.
Taika Waititi deserved to be nominated for Best Director, alongside Bong Joon-ho, over a lot of their white male colleagues. (Greta Gerwig also deserved a nomination, too.) He also has deserved to have his work recognized for at least three of his previous films, and hopefully, now, the Academy starts to actually appreciate work from all different creators instead of giving the same people nominations over and over again.
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