Jojo Rabbit: a comedy about nazis. What could go wrong?

Director Taika Waititi teaches us to laugh at the idiotic nature of war


No, this isn’t a review for Peter Rabbit 2… Today we’re focused on Taika Waititi’s nazi comedy Jojo Rabbit.

Jojo Rabbit is a film focused on a little boy named Jojo who idolizes his country and its ruler, Adolf Hitler in the midst of World War II. As he trains to one day become a soldier, Hitler appears to him as his imaginary best friend and Jojo dreams of being in his inner circle. However, Jojo has to question his values and priorities when he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. Written and directed by Waititi, it is certainly an interesting movie when you think about its subject matter in relation to its genre; a comedy about Nazi Germany. Yet, somehow, Waititi pulls it off.

Waititi portrays Hitler with no regard for historical accuracy and instead plays an eccentric figure who encourages Jojo to be the best of the best. He’s exactly what a little boy’s imaginary friend would be, with no relation to the real person. This creates a distance between the actual historical figure and the version of Hitler Jojo has in his mind. This distance makes it clear that Jojo does not really love Hitler, but simply thinks he does. We never see the real Hitler, only the man interpreted through Jojo’s imagination. In that sense, the film poignantly explores ignorance and blind patriotism from the perspective of an impressionable young boy, a theme that carries weight today; through social media, many young people are encouraged to hate others before they even have a chance to learn about them. This can be seen on something as simple as a plethora of hate comments on a YouTube video to entire websites dedicated to hate groups. Jojo Rabbit follows this idea. It does not focus on nazism more than it needs to, it instead focuses on the outcome of its existence. Jojo Rabbit is a comedy with a purpose; to take a child unaware of what he really stands for and to put you in his shoes.

Along with its hilarity, Jojo Rabbit is also a very innocent film because of its perspective. There are many joyful moments as we see the world through a child’s eyes, and only as adults can we think of the repercussions of the situation around him. Roman Griffin Davis gave an excellent performance as Jojo, with great comedic timing and an ability to emotionally connect with the audience. At the age of 12, he’s got a huge future ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing where he goes next. Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie also had notable performances in this film and made for a great supporting cast.

There were frequent and jarring tonal shifts throughout the film, where you would laugh one minute then feel completely shattered the next. Although these shifts were striking, I believe that they were necessary thematically. As Jojo’s perception of the world around him and of himself changes, so does the film.

Jojo Rabbit makes you laugh at the absurdities of hate but still forces you to look at the suffering that comes from that animosity. In that sense, Waititi is a genius. He’s able to make a hilarious comedy about Nazis that retains emotional resonance about its subject matter. Keep an eye out for Waititi in the future, I have a feeling he has tons more in store.



Graphic by @sundaeghost


Examining the socio-political influences behind Night of the Living Dead

The evil now resides within our own region and we ourselves are the threat

In the immensely vast and expansive canon of the horror genre, there are perhaps few films as significant as George A. Romero’s 1968 landmark title Night of the Living Dead.

Romero’s first ever feature-length film was responsible for the creation of the modern day zombie; the shuffling, re-animated, flesh-eating ghoul killed only by a blow to the head. The filmmakers’ gritty, uncompromising vision helped usher in a new wave of horror films that shifted their focus from the fantastical to the more realistic, grounded and gruesome.

Night of the Living Dead was released at the tail end of a decade marked by cultural phenomena and paints an acutely unsettling portrait of a country marred by civil unrest. In the years following the film’s release, Romero has spoken extensively on how Night was influenced by the era’s political climate. In a 2010 interview with film critic Peter Keough, Romero called his zombie films “snapshots of the time they were made.”

With Night, Romero set out to provoke and to reflect on the qualms and anxieties of the American public, while simultaneously offering a grim prediction of where things were headed.

The script for Night was developed by Romero and collaborator, John Russo, over the course of three days in 1967. That same year, a series of 159 race riots exploded across the United States in what became known as the “Long, hot summer of 1967.” Concurrently, the Vietnam War continued to rage on, being regularly broadcast to homes across America in vivid, graphic detail. As author Geoff King details in his book New Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction, the image of America as a place of freedom and democracy had been irreparably damaged, and lead to widespread anti-authoritarian and countercultural sentiments across the western world.

The collective impact of these events in a relatively short period of time influenced many filmmakers during the latter half of the decade, Romero included, whose criticisms come across in many of the film’s creative choices and thematic elements. Perhaps most telling of all is Romero’s decision to have the film take place within America. Horror movies prior to Night of the Living Dead had always been set in far-off, unfamiliar lands.

As film critic Robin Wood reflects on in his book Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, the foreign threat in horror during this time period suggests that, while evil does exist, it is certainly not American.

In Night, the evil now resides within our own region, we ourselves are the threat. Despite its reputation as the progenitor of zombie films, Night never outright refers to its monsters as “zombies.” 

For Romero, the movie’s ghouls were always intended to be dead neighbours, fellow citizens turned violent. Some, such as critic Douglas Winter, have even drawn parallels between the films’ zombies and soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War; violent, eager to kill and lacking in individuality or moral values. This theory is supported by the filmmakers’ decision to film the movie in black and white, mimicking the realism and grittiness of wartime newsreels.

The socio-political context behind the film has also allowed for readings through the lens of race relations during the 1960s. Of course, lending credence to this interpretation is the casting of Duane Jones, a person of colour, in the film’s lead role. With the Jim Crow laws having been abolished only a few years prior, this was indeed a bold move by the filmmakers.

Though Romero has stated that this decision was merely based on Jones’ acting abilities, having a person of colour in a lead role alongside a cast of white actors was incredibly uncommon at the time.

Night’s ending, in which Ben survives until sunrise only to be killed by a group of vigilante rednecks, remains startling to this day and, as noted by writer Caetlin Benson-Allott, is shockingly reminiscent of lynch mob photos. Critic Ben Hervey, in his book Night of the Living Dead (BFI Film Classics), states that Romero shot the ending sequence with politics consciously in mind, suggesting that this was a parallel made intentionally.

Over 50 years later, Night of the Living Dead remains a startling depiction of a society at war with itself, one fraught with distress and anger. To dismiss it as your run-of-the-mill zombie affair would be doing the film a great injustice. Romero and company soaked in the influence of a tumultuous time to craft an enduring classic that still has a lot to say. In times as divisive and uncertain as these, Romero’s opus is still as relevant as ever.

Night of the Living Dead is playing at Cinéma Moderne as part of its“Halloween at Cinéma Moderne” series. Screenings take place on Oct. 30 and 31 at 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket counter for $11.50. For more details, visit them online at or on location at 5150 St-Laurent Blvd.


Graphic by @joeybruceart


Artfully showcasing unsettling stories

Highlights from the Festival du nouveau cinéma include striking films from two Canadian filmmakers

The Festival du nouveau cinéma wrapped up on Oct. 15, following two weeks of showcasing some of the best new films of the year. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes

It’s difficult to describe this film as anything but disturbing and violent, but it’s not a bad film by any means. Directed by Québécois filmmaker Simon Lavoie, La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes will stay with you long after you’ve seen it due to its graphic depiction of family abuse, neglect and assault. Teenaged Ali (played formidably by Marine Johnson) was raised to believe she was a boy. The film shows her living in isolation with her brother and volatile father, who beats them senselessly any time they step out of line. Although the film is shot in black-and-white, Lavoie still manages to convey the gruesome details, which only elevate the film’s morbidity. Ali’s father seems haunted by a life-altering event, told only in flashbacks throughout the film. In present day, Ali is not only unaware she is a girl—she also doesn’t understand that her brother impregnated her when he raped her in the woods. When a sympathetic man from a nearby town explains who she is and what happened to her, Ali takes control of her life and fights for survival. But when the truth of her family’s secrets are finally revealed, it feels like a punch to the gut. Despite the heartbreaking revelation, the film ends with a glimmer of hope, making it worth all Ali had to endure.

Sweet Virginia

Jon Bernthal (right) and Christopher Abbott star in Sweet Virginia, a chilling and cinematic thriller.

There is nothing sweet about this film, and that’s what makes its title so effective. Set in a small town where three brutal murders have just taken place, Sweet Virginia tells the story of Sam (played by Jon Bernthal), a tortured ex-bull-rider who now manages a motel, and his friendship with Elwood (Christopher Abbott), a deranged hitman who inserts himself into Sam’s life. Rounding out the main cast are Rosemarie DeWitt and Imogen Poots as Bernadette and Lila—two disgruntled widows harbouring a few secrets of their own. Elwood books a room at Sam’s motel shortly after murdering three men in a local diner, two of whom are Bernadette and Lila’s husbands. Sam befriends Elwood, not knowing who he is, and the two strike up a rapport. The tension between them rapidly builds as Elwood’s motives—and Sam’s connection to one of the victims—becomes clear. Bernthal impresses as the quiet, kind-heart Sam, but Abbott is the true standout here. He showcases Elwood’s increasingly maniacal and sociopathic behaviour through subtle gestures—such as his ever-present and ever-creepy groan—along with an off-puttingly upbeat candor. While the ending is rather predictable, the audience is still jolted out of their seats when the film reaches its climax. Moreover, the film is visually stunning. Director Jamie M. Dagg managed to capture interesting features even in the most mundane settings, such as a motel room or the front seat of a car, through non-traditional camera placement. If you’re into crime thrillers set in moody small towns, then Sweet Virginia is for you.


Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s gems and lemons

First part of our report of what the FNC has to offer this year

Montreal is known for its array of film festivals taking place during the whole year. The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) could be considered one of the most prominent of those said festivals. This year is the 43rd anniversary of the famous festival. The numerous screenings take place in movie theaters all around the city, notably at Concordia University. The FNC started on Oct. 8 with local director Phillipe Fallardeau’s last film The Good Lie and will be ending on Oct. 19 with the acclaimed documentary about Brazilian photograph Sebastião Salgado presented earlier this year at Cannes.

Toronto may have the TIFF, but we have the FNC and, as you will read in this two-part article, our beloved city does not have to feel like less of a major cinematographic metropolis. Here are some of the films The Concordian saw this week–stay tuned for more reviews next week.


A trip into a troubling world in which the importance of cultural traditions may outweigh law and what could be considered outright justice, Difret will make everyone uncomfortable. Still, this feeling is somewhat inevitable when dealing with a tale as unsettling as this one, especially when it is inspired by an actual true story. Difret, Zeresenay Mehari’s first full-length movie, is the account of an Ethiopian 14-year-old girl accused of killing a man who abducted and raped her so she could become his wife, as the local traditional customs dictates to do. It is also the story of a lawyer working for an NGO which defends women’s and children’s rights, fighting an outdated legal and social system willing to condemn this child to death for murder. This movie offers the public a sober and meticulously slow paced rendering of a dramatic reality. For such a controversial topic, this modesty is a surprisingly mature and enjoyable aspect, since it could have been replaced by an array of cheap cinematographic tricks to try and get sensational and tacky reactions from the audience. Difret ends up being a successful attempt at portraying a harsh but genuine reality of still-relevant cultural issues about social inequalities from around the world. Angelina Jolie is also the film’s executive producer, a first for her.


Je suis à toi
with contributions from Olivia Ranger-Enns

How much would you pay for love? That is the poignant and difficult question the film Je suis à toi, by Belgian director David Lambert, asks. Lambert’s work dissects how easily love can be bought, but not sold.

How much would you pay for love?

We are immediately immersed in the life of Lucas, a young Argentinian escort, who is saved from the world of prostitution by Henry, a Belgian baker. Lucas is frankly disgusted by Henry, who is both fat and ugly. The camera frequently zooms in on the physical differences between the characters; whereas Henry sports a hefty figure and grey whiskers, Lucas is dark, handsome and cat-like. Lucas has to share a bed with Henry, give him oral sex, and work early hours in the bakery. As Henry becomes more and more possessive, Lucas becomes more violent. He’s like caged tiger. When Lucas is accused of stealing from the cash register, Lucas wields a kitchen knife, screaming: “I am the thief? You are the thief!” Tensions rise further between the “lovers” until Audrey, Henry’s assistant, comes on scene. It is only at this point that true love strikes. Audrey and Lucas take long walks by the river and feed each other Chinese food. The love triangle just gets more and more complex as the question arises: can Lucas ever really “belong” to Henry?

Although some scenes are cliché (like the shower scenes following forced sex), the film is overall heartwarming. We see Lucas look straight into Audrey’s eyes, admitting that his sexuality is “fucked up” as Audrey tenderly wraps her arms around his skeletal torso. We get the message: Lucas does not need sex. Rather, he needs love and a home. There are funny elements in this film, which provides comedic relief from the heavy drama. Seeing tiny Lucas trying to pummel mountains of dough into the flour machine is hilarious enough. All in all, Lambert struck a sweet note, finding balance between despair and happiness. The film juxtaposes sex to love, independence to dependence, and loneliness to friendship. We all want to belong to someone, but paradoxically we can never belong to anyone but ourselves. Which brings us back to the question: how much would you pay for love?

Cavalo Dinheiro

Cavalo Dinheiro will undoubtedly not satisfy everyone. Its famous Portuguese director, Pedro Costa, is known by the cinema community as an important figure in what could be described as cinéma d’auteur. His movies are mostly focused on depicting the lives and difficulties of the less privileged, especially in Lisbon, his artistic muse. Cavalo Dinheiro perfectly fits these criteria.

The movie follows the nerve-shattered Ventura, played by a non-professional actor, and its metaphysical tribulations relating to his past. The film also portrays the hidden decrepit side of an ever-changing Lisbon. With its dark and magnificent photography, Cavalo Dinheiro shares a vision of poverty and inequalities’ moving beauty.

However, the movie feels more like an exercise of style and form than an actual movie. Even if you can get a sense of strength emanating from the raw charisma of the main characters, it still manages to be too much and too long for the average movie-goer. Sure, every once in a while it is good to watch a good “artsy” movie. Still, this ode to a past Lisbon, this social commentary about poverty is sadly but simply boring. It is the perfect example of an uncompromising director putting his own thoughts on screen. It also shows that sometimes, you should keep in mind the people willing to experience your artistic work while putting on canvas your vision. If not, people may end up leaving the movie theater behind before the end, and never give the film a second thought.

Hermosa Juventud

Jaime Rosales’ latest movie, Hermosa Juventud falls a bit flat.

Hermosa Juventud, Spanish director Jaime Rosales’ latest movie, follows the mundane but still eventful lives of two young adults in love living in Madrid. The movie also depicts an economically crippled Spain in which a whole generation of youth lives without much hope for the future. An unexpected pregnancy, an inability to provide what is needed to form a family, a stab wound and even an amateur porn scene, Hermosa Juventud provides plenty of pivotal moments to the story. Still, it is all about how this relationship will evolve through all those incidents. Moments of love, despair and melancholy show that the potential of the director and actors of this production. However, even with two decent main actors and an experienced director at the mast, Hermosa Juventud ends up feeling flat. An ever-present feeling of monotony saturates the movie. It does not mean that such a movie needs action-packed scenes like a car chase or a gunfight to be good, but even routinal moments can be interesting enough so that the audience can enjoy the screening.

Something feels off. It feels as though something is missing from the lives of those beautiful young people. Cinematographic elements and some original and interesting aspects like using a smartphone screen as a tool for transitioning through time are nice additions. Sadly, they are countered by some other unexciting and even annoying features like the omnipresence of the shaking camera. It makes Hermosa Juventud look like a cheap movie. Other ambitious characteristics, like the  absence of music in the movie, once again shows the potential of the creators, but still lacks the sparks necessary to hook the viewer. Overall, a good idea made into a dull movie.

For more information on the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, visit

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