Taika Waititi returned to his actual hometown, and his actual childhood home, to make BOY. The story, set in 1984, is fictional, but when I talked to him on March 15, 2012, one of the things we talked about was the reality behind the fiction. It’s not just the eponymous character’s abiding devotion to ice pops, but also his worship of Michael Jackson for reasons that had more to do with just his music, and what it was like growing up the son of a Maori father and Jewish mother in a small town in New Zealand.
BOY is a film about hero worship, growing up, and novel uses for the ordinary kitchen spoon. The eponymous character, an 11-year-old being raised amid cousins and a younger brother by his grandmother, faces all three when his absent father, Alamein played by Waititi, suddenly reappears in the dead of night while grandma is away for a few weeks. As Alamein spins tales of buried treasure and his glory days as a member of the Crazy Horses gang he founded, Boy spins his own fantasies about the glamorous life of danger his father has lived as various adventure heroes. With the legend of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Steven Spielberg’s E.T., and the fanciful animations and digressions of Boy’s imaginations, the film takes a whimsical tone in telling a story about loss that is at once tragic, funny, and ridiculously heartwarming. Waititi directed from his own script and his efforts resulted in the New Zealand’s highest grossing domestic film ever. Trained as an artist. His previous work includes the delightfully off-kilter EAGLE VS. SHARK. He is also one of the inaugural recipients of the Arts Foundations New Generation Award.