Taika Waititi made history at the 92nd Academy Awards Sunday night when he became the first Māori person to win an Oscar.
Waititi won Best Adapted Screenplay for his World War II “anti-hate” satire “Jojo Rabbit” ― which he wrote, directed and starred in. He is the first Indigenous person to be nominated in the category and first Indigenous director to win an Oscar.
The New Zealand filmmaker accepted his award in classic Kiwi fashion, signing off his speech with the Māori greeting and expression of thanks “kia ora.”
He thanked his mom for “being my mother” and for introducing him to the book he adapted, Christine Leunens’s “Caging Skies,” before dedicating his win to Indigenous children around the world with aspirations to create art.
“I dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories,” he said. “We are the original storytellers and we can make it here, as well.”
The film is nominated in five other categories: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing.
Waititi and his wife, Chelsea Winstanley, who is also of Māori heritage, are also the first Indigenous producers to receive a film nomination in the coveted Best Picture category. Māori production designer Rā Vincent added to this year’s list of Indigenous nominees for his work in “Jojo Rabbit.”
Waititi was nominated for an Oscar once before, for his 2004 short film “Two Cars, One Night.”
The only other Indigenous person to have won an Oscar is Canadian-American singer-songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie, who won the Best Original Song category in 1982.
“Jojo Rabbit” stars Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo “Rabbit” Betzler, Scarlett Johansson as his mother Rosie Betzler, Waititi as his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler, and Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa Korr, a Jewish girl whom Jojo’s mother hides in their family’s home in Nazi Germany.
The satire explores 10-year-old Hitler Youth member Jojo’s journey overcoming his blind nationalism while becoming unlikely friends with the Jewish girl he discovers hiding in his home.