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Taika Waititi’s Oscar is a win for Jews and Māoris alike

TJI Pick
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Published: 14 February 2020

Last updated: 4 March 2024

Hannah Geraghty: The NZ director is a mix of Māori (father) and Jewish (mother), which may seem uncommon, but actually there are plenty of mixed Māori Jews. I am one of them

MY MUM’S HERITAGE, on both sides, are Māori, from the Ngati Maru iwi (tribe) from the Thames area of New Zealand’s North Island. Through her father’s side, I also have Assyrian Jewish heritage.

Those of us with mixed roots may look more like a particular branch on the family tree than another, but what does a Jewish person look like, anyway? Our spirit is a mix, belonging both to New Zealand and the people of Israel. Waititi’s wit has deep Māori roots, while his Jewish heritage is evident in his social commentaries. Given that Waititi comes from two cultural groups the Nazis felt were “subhuman,” his Oscar win for writing an “anti-hate satire” — in which he portrays Adolf Hitler on screen — is the ultimate middle finger to Nazism. As Waititi himself said, “What better way to insult Hitler than having him portrayed by a Polynesian Jew?”

I couldn’t be happier about Waititi becoming the first Indigenous director to win an Academy Award. I grew up with stories of being a descendant of a Māori chief. (I suppose I am actually a Jewish princess!)

It’s an integral part of my family’s oral history, and it goes like this: Back in the 1850s, the Nga Puhi, a rival tribe, supported the British colonization of other Māori by raiding tribes and taking their lands. (As a result of these attacks, they are the largest iwi left in New Zealand today.)

FULL STORY Taika Waititi’s Oscar win is extra special for Māori Jews like me (Kveller)

Jojo Rabbit director says critics wouldn’t be as harsh if they knew he’s Jewish (Times of Israel)
Taika Waititi also plays Adolf Hitler in the romping anti-Nazi comedy set in the final days of World War II

Photo: Taika Waititi, NZ, Oscar, Jojo Rabbit, Maori, film

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