Not long after the Nazis took power, the German Institute of Sex Research was destroyed. The organization had pioneered studies into homosexuality and gender non-conformity decades before other Western countries, and used that knowledge to advocate for the legal rights of queer people. Its founder, Magnus Hirschfeld, invented the term “transsexual,” and the Institute was among the first places in the world to provide hormone treatment and trans-related surgeries to patients. In 1933, its archives were set ablaze after an attack by the German Student Union. The loss that this represented for queer (and especially trans) people worldwide was incalculable. And for queer Germans, the message was clear: the Nazis are coming for you.
Taika Waititi wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s evident from all four of his sad, quirky, New Zealand-based cinematic adventures, not including his plummet into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and absolutely including What We Do in the Shadows, a film that somehow manages to find the warmth and humanity in horny, blood-slurping vampires. He’s been called a master of “sad-happy cinema”; adept at finding the perfect balance between melancholy, humor, and real joy. His films such as Eagle vs. Shark, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy work to this concept with the utmost precision, playing for laughs during awkward, tear-jerking moments and treating darker subject material with a gentle, playful touch. Waititi wants people to understand that happiness and sadness aren’t opposites, but two emotions that can and should coexist. There is beauty in despair and humor in our strife. Light is ever-present even in the utmost darkness.Continue reading “‘Jojo Rabbit’ is Cute, Confused and Nothing Particularly Gutsy”