BOY - PAINFUL AND FUNNY
Like all films that touch us, Boy is filled with acute and often painful
reality – but reality is a multifaceted force that can be painful and funny all
at once, as New Zealand writer director Taika Waititi explains in his notes to
Boy, his first feature film.
Set in a rural Maori community in the Bay of Plenty, Boy is an 11 year-old Boy’s
journey to knowing and understanding the adult world of which he will one day
become a part. Boy is a character who invents memories to make sense of his
place in the world. He tries to better his existence vicariously through the
made-up exploits of his absent father, Alamein. When Alamein returns, Boy is
forced to reinvent his world, memories and self so he can become a young man.
Like Boy, I draw a lot of inspiration from true and imagined memories. This
story is personal in that I believe you must write what you know in order to
create honest art. Some events are true, some true of other people, most are
Part of what makes this film distinct is the humour; I want to explore the
painful comedy of growing up and interpreting the world. I believe that despite
our faults and inadequacies, through all pain and heartache, there is still room
Taika on casting
I wanted an authenticity to these kids because it is set in a place where people
speak a certain way, they are different to city kids and I really didn’t want to
ask someone to fake that. Using local maori kids also meant they found the whole
marae situation very normal, they had their whanau with them as well as a
chaperone. We had Rachel House (who plays Aunty Gracey in the film) on board to
do that job.
Taika on Boy (James Rolleston) and Rocky (Te Aho
These kids reminded me of just how much incredible talent we have here in New
Zealand. Maori kids don't get many opportunities like this and to find a pair of
boys so different and so engaging as actors filled me with awe and pride.
Sometimes it was difficult. There were the usual melt downs you'd expect with
working with kids but when you think of the performances they're giving you,
when you realise they're saving your movie simply by being in it, then you
forget the sulking and demands for sugar – you just smile and say...”thank you
Taika on playing Alamein
In the early stages of the script Alamein is someone who seems so manipulative
and cruel, a person few would care to relate to. But I believe in him as a
person (I am very protective of all my characters). He needs to be charming and
funny, someone you have faith in because underneath you can see the potential,
yet he is also dangerous and unpredictable. He is, for me, the most interesting
character because of what he represents. He is a symbolic sacrifice to the
shadow side of ourselves, a warning or reminder of what Boy could become, yet he
is the crucial catalyst for Boy’s change.
We all have the ability to be anything and everything; good and bad, cruel and
compassionate. Finding the right balance is what makes characters compelling. I
never like the idea of creating characters for the objective
pleasure of the audience. I want people to see themselves in these characters,
to relate in a personal way, to say, “I just watched myself go through all of
that”. In this film we are watching ourselves growing up.
Published August 26, 2010
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BOY (2010) – written & directed by Taika Waititi
In 1984 on the rural East Coast of New Zealand, Michael Jackson’s Thriller is
changing kids’ lives. Boy (James Rolleston) is a dreamer who loves Michael
Jackson. He lives with his younger brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), a
tribe of deserted cousins and his Nan (Mavis Paenga). Boy’s other hero, his
father, Alamein (Taika Waititi), is the subject of Boy’s fantasies, and he
imagines him as a deep sea diver, war hero and a close relation of Michael
Jackson (he can even dance like him). In reality he’s in jail for robbery. When
Alamein returns home after 7 years, Boy is forced to confront the man he thought
he remembered, find his own potential and learn to get along without the hero he
had been hoping for.
In cinemas in Australia from August 26, 2010.