BY RENU MEHTA, TORONTO: #Jojo Rabbit won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Directed by Taika Waititi, the film won $15,000 People’s Choice prize sponsored by Grolsch on September 15.
The story is about Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) who is a precocious kid in World War II Germany with an egregious blind spot. Socially awkward, but a proud member of the Hitler Youth, Jojo passes much of his time with his imaginary friend Adolf (Waititi), a cuddly, energetic, pep-talking version of the Führer. Having completely bought into Nazi hate, Jojo is incensed when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been working for the resistance, helping to keep safe the Jewish people he’s been taught to hate. With Germany on the brink of collapse, he is faced with the choice of clinging to his hateful beliefs or embracing his humanity.
According to the press notes, Waititi and his casting team watched over 1,000 audition tapes to find the right person for the lead role. They undertook an exhaustive search, spanning from New Zealand and Australia to the UK, US, Canada and Germany. At last, the search came to an abrupt halt the minute they met 11-year-old Brit, Roman Griffin Davis.
“Davis seemed to intuit, with a sophistication almost eerily beyond his years, how Jojo’s simple yearning to be accepted, admired and loved gets contorted into serving a grim and malicious agenda. 11-year-old Brit, Roman Griffin Davis was cast in the role.”
“Taika was looking for someone who had that sparkle in his eye and the extreme enthusiasm for life Jojo has. We immediately liked Roman, but then we also saw that he had the range to mix anger, anxiety, discovery and other subtle emotions into the humor. Roman’s focus is incredibly impressive for a kid his age, and he was able to bring an unusual intensity to very difficult scenes,” as per the press notes.
TIFF ran this year from September 5-15 during which Jojo Rabbit had several sold out screenings. Many films in the past that have won the TIFF People’s Choice award have gone on to win the Oscars including The Green Book last year, Slumdog Millionaire and King’s Speech, amongst others.