Taika Waititi has established himself as one of New Zealand's leading directors, with our top grossing local film, an Oscar nomination, and several other international accolades to his name. He's also not shy of the limelight, having starred in a range of TV shows, music videos and some of his own movies.
Waititi made his on screen debut in 1999, playing Alex in the feature Scarfies. Set in a Dunedin student squat, the movie was the most successful Kiwi release of the 90s at the local box office, with Waititi's performance earning him a Best Actor nomination at the NZ Film Awards.
Waititi was no Scarfie himself, having graduated from Wellington's Victoria University with a degree in Theatre and Film. While there he developed a taste for comedy, joining performance group So You're A Man with Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie and others. This Pulp Comedy episode from 2003 highlights his solo stand-up chops, as he takes on the character of Gunter, a German "joke" teller.
Two Cars, One Night
Waititi's directorial debut, and international breakthrough, came with 2003's Two Cars, One Night. Set in a Te Kaha pub car park, the short film became a breakout hit, winning numerous awards and earning him an Oscar nomination. He famously feigned sleep as his name was read out at the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony.
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Waititi cemented his success with another short, 2005's Tama Tū. Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, the film followed a troop of Māori Battalion soldiers during World War II. Tama Tū was invited to more than 40 international film festivals, earning honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
2007 saw the successful release of Waititi's debut feature film Eagle vs Shark. However he had already started writing his second feature, exploring some of the characters and ideas introduced in Two Cars, One Night. Boy was released in 2010 and quickly became a blockbuster, currently our top-grossing local feature. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area, where Waititi partly grew up, and saw him playing just-out-of-jail father Alamein, in addition to directing.
Waititi has also directed a number of music videos, including two for Wellington band The Phoenix Foundation. The second of these was for 2009 single 40 Years, a one-shot clip that sees him playing a singing jogger, encountering an increasingly bizarre set of obstacles.
You can see a more comprehensive selection of Taika Waititi's work here.