As kids, many of us had invisible friends drawn from our heroes or storybook characters. Jojo’s invisible friend is Hitler.
Jojo is a boy who’s been indoctrinated; he’s 10 and a member of the Hitler Youth. He likes marching, he likes uniforms and he likes the camaraderie of an extra-militaristic version of Scout camp. Taika Waititi plays Hitler as seen through Jojo’s eyes – a camp and paunchy, child friendly version of the dictator who acts as a confidant and sounding board for Jojo’s thoughts and fears.
After leaving the Hitler Youth through injury, Jojo finds other ways to get stuck in to the war effort, collecting scrap metal and sticking up posters. Away from the marching and training, without any adult supervision he’s left to his own devices, playing with Hitler and exploring the house he shares with his mysteriously busy single mother. Upstairs she’s kept a secret and Jojo’s discovery of Elsa, a Jewish girl hidden in an attic room throws his devotion to the Nazi cause into disarray.
If you’ve seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) or What We Do In The Shadows (2014), Waititi’s off-kilter silliness will be no surprise. In Jojo Rabbit, he handles the heavy themes delicately with on-brand bursts of humour and irreverence that bring levity without ever quite tipping into disrespect. The casting throughout is incredible; Jojo is Roman Griffin Davis’ first role, his mother is played by Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell is the one-eyed Hitler Youth Co-ordinator Captain Klenzendorf. Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen and Stephen Merchant appear as improbable supporting Nazis.
Jojo Rabbit has been nominated for Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards. Scarlett Johansson has been nominated for best supporting actress and four more nominations (for best adapted screenplay, film editing, costume design and production design) bring the total to 6. It’s not just the big awards; audience reception has been rapturous and in 2019 the film won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival and the Audience Favourite at LIFF.
Jojo Rabbit will be showing at the Hyde Park from Friday the 17th of January.
Next in our series of posts on Leeds International Film Festival, Hannah tells us about her festival plans…
Last week, on a bit of a nostalgia trip, I watched the French film A Town Called Panic (2009) This showed on bonfire night at the Picture House during LIFF24 in 2010 and was my first taste of the film festival. Since then, my festival has steadily grown from the occasional odd film when I happened to be in Leeds to being an essential fortnight of my autumn calendar, around which all other things must be carefully arranged.
This year I’m going
full tilt into LIFF (can we call it LIFF33?). After 2018, I said I’d take it
easy and have time to reflect between screenings, maybe pop home occasionally,
check in with my family or go for some leisurely lunches. You know, the things
it’s nice to do when you’ve taken a week off work. Unfortunately somewhere in
the planning, that idea has been bulldozered. The changes in ticketing for the
festival, a jam-packed programme to choose from and a kind of film festival
FOMO have conspired to keep me as square-eyed as ever.
The Hidden City– a documentary by Víctor Moreno on subterranean worlds; the pipes, tunnels and transport beneath our cities.
Night of the Dead and the inaugural Sci-fi Day – the marathon events at HP are staples of the film festival programme and this year the line-up includes a sci-fi run back to back with NOTD. If you’re really going for it you could attempt both, and I’m sure some will!
Outside the Picture
House, I’m really looking forward to:
The Gangster The Cop The Devil – Thanks to LIFF, I’ve discovered a love of Korean action. A gangster and a police officer hunt a serial killer – the trailer is promising and I have high hopes.
Come to Daddy– Elijah Wood in a grizzly family drama. It might tip into type-casting, but Wood does wide-eyed terror well and I expect it to be put to good use here.
Days of the Bagnold Summer– the directorial debut from Simon Bird (Will from The Inbetweeners) is an adaptation from the graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart. A story of a teenage boy and his mum navigating a long summer holiday together. The cast includes British favourites Alice Lowe, Monica Dolan and Tamsin Greig, with Earl Cave (Nick’s son) in the central role.
Family Romance LLC– A Werner Herzog documentary exploring a business in Japan that rents out actors to substitute in others’ lives, like a nonfiction rendering of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2011 film Alps. That film was strange enough and I’m interested to see how the real version might work. From the trailer and bits I’ve read online, it’s going to be an odd one.
With a programme
that offers such a variety and by giving myself the freedom to take some risks,
the LIFF experience to date has dramatically expanded my cinematic horizons.
Before discovering them in the cinema, I probably would have skirted all sorts
of excellent foreign-language films because they felt like too much of a
challenge and I definitely wouldn’t have gone out to see many documentaries on
the big screen. These days the reluctance has vanished and recent years have
been a feast of the weird and wonderful.
Taking an afternoon off work to go to the cinema feels like a decadent treat, something you can file under ‘self care’ and spoil yourself rotten at a matinee. Take a whole day off to go to the pictures and it might start to feel strange – more than one film at this time of year and you’ll barely see daylight. Take a few more and step out of your day-to-day life, disconnect from rolling news and immerse yourself in the moving image. There in the dark, you might learn something new, experience something you wouldn’t have otherwise, and lose yourself in other people’s imaginations. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.
LIFF 2019 starts on
Wednesday. I’ll see you in the cinema!