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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 to laugh.

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 Eketone-Whitu)
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 brats...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.

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