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Theme Tuesday - Indigenous Voices - Boy

For April 2018, I will be exploring films that feature indigenous people in leading roles and feature narratives about the identity of such people and the society that has inevitably oppressed them.


Taika Waititi has had such a meteoric rise, going from small indie features to one of the biggest Marvel movies of all time (Thor: Ragnarok), that it’s difficult to see how dedicated he is to his Maori roots. It’s not as if he tries to hide it. In Thor, his character Korg has the distinct, New Zealand accent. He and Jemaine Clement were advisors on Disney hit Moana, which draws heavily from Polynesian lore. But nowhere are his roots more evident that in his second feature Boy.

Boy shares a lot with other movies about the modern lives of indigenous people. Alamein (played by James Rolleston), known as Boy, basically takes care of his family as he struggles to live without much adult support. Despite the poverty he lives in, he is a mostly positive kid who loves Michael Jackson and has crushes on girls. He also admires his father beyond reason and is over the moon when he (played by Waititi) comes back, even though it’s clear taking care of his children is clearly not his top priority.

Waititi’s imaginative skills are evident even from this early feature. He didn’t quite have the budget to indulge in special effects for this feature, but he more than makes up for it in his writing and his characterization. The father he play is clearly a bum, but he’s also fun and childlike, and it is easy to see how Boy would overlook his father’s flaws because he wants to have a relationship with him so much. LIttle vignettes like the ones with Rocky are both funny and poignant as he tries to justify his mother’s absence in his life because he believes he had superpowers that were too much for his mother to handle.

I have been admittedly a little self-selecting when it comes to movies exploring this theme, but I am glad that the films that I have picked so far have been very different in their approach and execution. Waititi does not shy away from emotional or heart-wrenching but he tempers with a good deal of humor and self-deprecation. Plus, he does not dwell too much on the poverty and disenfranchisement of his characters, though he doesn’t try to hide it either. I think it is this light touch to potentially very dramatic material that made his Hunt for the Wilderpeople so successful, and I would like to see him explore more dramatic stories with his unique touch since I do believe he is a unique voice that deserves to be heard more.

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