Oscar winner Taika Waititi honoured for services to film

By Jessica Tyson

Filmmaker Taika Waititi has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to film as part of the Queen’s Honours List announced today.

Waititi has a background as a comedian, screenwriter and actor and has achieved national and international success as a film director, most recently winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his 2019 film Jojo Rabbit.

Waititi wrote, directed and acted in Jojo Rabbit, which also won the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay. During his acceptance speech, Waititi dedicated the award to indigenous kids around the world.

“I want to dedicate this to all indigenous kids around the world who want to do our art, and dance and write stories, we are the original storytellers.”

Waititi delivers speech after winning Oscar / Te Ao

Last month it was announced that Waititi will direct a new Star Wars film.

This is not the first time that the boy from Raukōkore will be part of the intergalactic franchise having starred in and directed the season finale of the Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian in 2019.

Waititi, who wrote himself into the Marvel universe, has been on the Star Wars scanners for a long time, after his major Hollywood directorial debut Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.


Waititi to co-write and direct new Star Wars film / Te Ao

Other recent work of his has been making a series of videos reading James and the Giant Peach with the Roald Dahl Story Company.

Teaming up with over 40 actors, the videos show Waititi reading the classic children’s story. Animation and actor improvisation accompany the readings.

The first two episodes feature Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nick Kroll, and brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth reading portions of the book from their homes.

Viewers are encouraged to make a donation to Partners in Health, an NGO on the front line fighting COVID-19. The Roald Dahl Story Company will match all donations up to $1mil.

Earlier films

Waititi gained prominence for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night, which was nominated for an Academy Award and won several international film festival awards.

His feature film Boy in 2010 became the highest-grossing New Zealand film, a record that was then surpassed by his 2016 film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which broke records for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend.

His earlier films Eagle vs Shark, in 2007, and What We Do in the Shadows, in 2014, were received with critical acclaim, as well as his major Hollywood directorial debut Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.

That same year he was named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2017.

Waititi has directed episodes of the Flight of the Concords television series and a series of the New Zealand television show Super City.

Earlier in his career, Waititi was one half of the comedy duo Humourbeasts, who received New Zealand’s highest comedy accolade the Billy T Award in 1999.