Taika Waititi’s imagination runs wild in the official trailer for “Jojo Rabbit,” one of Fox Searchlight’s big indie releases this fall movie season. The movie stars Waititi opposite newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, who plays a young boy in Nazi Germany whose nationalistic worldview is thrown for a loop after he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish teenager (“Leave No Trace” breakout Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. The supporting cast also includes Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, and “Game of Thrones” Emmy nominee Alfie Allen.
“Jojo Rabbit” is world premiering this month at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Fox Searchlight is surely hoping for Oscar buzz. The movie is Waititi’s return to indie filmmaking after helming the Marvel Cinematic Universe tentpole “Thor: Ragnarok,” which grossed over $854 million at the worldwide box office. “Jojo” is one of three Oscar hopefuls Fox Searchlight is launching this season; the others include Noah Hawley’s “Lucy in the Sky” (also premiering at TIFF) and Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life (which debuted at Cannes and resurfaced at Telluride).
Even more important regarding the “Jojo” rollout is that it’s one of the first major indie releases for Fox Searchlight under new parent company Disney. According to Variety, the Nazi subject matter at the heart of “Jojo Rabbit” has worried some executives because the subject matter is “a little too edgy for Disney brass accustomed to producing movies suitable for parents and kids.” During one of Searchlight’s screenings for Disney staff, one executive reportedly “grew audibly uncomfortable, worrying aloud that the material would alienate Disney fans.”
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Fox Searchlight is billing “Jojo Rabbit” as an “anti-hate satire.” Waititi stars in the movie as a fictional Adolf Hitler, a projection of the main character’s imagination. Waititi has been vocal about the role not being an accurate portrayal of the Nazi leader but a scathing takedown.
“Jojo Rabbit” opens in theaters nationwide October 18 from Fox Searchlight.