TIFF 2019: Jojo Rabbit captures TIFF People’s Choice Award

Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi’s Nazi Germany-set “anti-hate satire,” has captured the Toronto International Film Festival’s coveted People’s Choice Award.

The film centres on a young German boy who dreams of being a good Nazi, aided by his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (portrayed by New Zealand filmmaker Waititi).

His world is turned upside down when he discovers a teenaged Jewish girl being hidden in his home by his mother. The movie is loosely based on the novel Caging Skies.

Filmmaker Taika Waititi speaks to CBC News about his new film Jojo Rabbit ahead of its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, Sept. 8. (CBC)

During the festival, Waititi defended his film against those critical of its whimsical feel and irreverent take on the waning days of the Nazi regime. 

“I think, more than ever, it’s vital that we [remind] people of what happened [during the Second World War],” he told CBC News. 

“If that involves having to bring in fantasy characters and using magic realism and using different techniques and sometimes comedy, so be it. We have to keep telling these stories.”

The People’s Choice Prize is the second honour Indigenous writer-director and performer Waititi received at the festival this year.

Known for his superhero blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, cult vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, as well as acclaimed New Zealand films Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, he was also the recipient of the TIFF Ebert Director Award at the festival’s inaugural TIFF Tribute Awards fundraising gala.

Other winners announced Sunday include: 

  • People’s Choice Documentary Award: The Cave, dir. Feras Fayyad.
  • People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award: The Platform, dir. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
  • Best Canadian First Feature Film ($15,000): The Twentieth Century, dir. Matthew Rankin.
  • Best Canadian Feature Film ($30,000): Antigone, dir. Sophie Deraspe.
  • Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Film ($10,000): Delphine, dir. Chloé Robichaud. 
  • Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film ($10,000): All Cats Are Grey in the Dark, dir. Lasse Linder.
  • NETPAC Award: 1982, dir. Oualid Mouaness. 

TIFF is widely considered the unofficial start to the movie awards season, with films that win the festival’s main People’s Choice Award often going on to receive further kudos and acclaim. Past TIFF winners have included movies such as Green RoomLa La Land, Room, 12 Years a SlaveThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Slumdog Millionaire, all of which subsequently went on to major recognition at the Oscars. 

TIFF’s leaders chose to change the way it presents its final awards this year, opting to dispense with a gathering unveiling this year’s prize-winners on the festival’s last day.

Instead, they split up the various honours and began announcing this year’s winners on Thursday. 

Previously announced winners include:

  • Toronto Platform Prize ($20,000): Martin Eden, dir. Pietro Marcello.
  • International Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI), Discovery Program: Murmur, dir. Heather Young.
  • International Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI), Special Presentations Program: How to Build a Girl, dir. Coky Giedroyc.

Organizers are presenting free screenings of some of this year’s winning films — including the recipients of the People’s Choice Award, the People’s Choice Documentary Award, the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award and the Toronto Platform Prize — at TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto on Sunday.

Read more at CBC.ca