Taika Waititi praises Jacinda Ardern, says NZ is 'turning'

Taika Waititi has doubled down on calling New Zealand a racist country, again on an international stage - but he reckons things are improving.

The Thor: Ragnarok director was the star of a 'Master Class' talk at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Monday (local time), where he also expressed that it's "vital" for indigenous filmmakers to tell their own stories.

Waititi addressed how some of his previous statements on his home country upset some Kiwis, before praising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for representing positive changes.

"I get in a lot of trouble when I mouth off about New Zealand, I'm like public enemy number one over there," he said.

"They say 'What's it like in New Zealand?', and I say 'It's racist'. [Then Kiwis] say 'you're supposed to be a spokesperson for this country!'. But, it is. It's a f**ked up country, but it's a beautiful country - I'm patriotic and I love my country. We've got a great Prime Minister now and things are turning."

Warning: Embedded video below contains coarse language.

Waititi believes Ardern is a breath of fresh air for New Zealand.

"We've got a beautiful woman who is our Prime Minister, who was pregnant and just had a baby - with her boyfriend! And she's unapologetic about it," he said.

"They were like 'What happens if you get pregnant?' And she's like 'I'm not here to talk about my womb, I'm here to run a country!'"

The Master Class was hosted by TIFF's Artistic Director Cameron Bailey, who suggested Māori stand as an inspiration to indigenous Canadian peoples who are fighting for the ability to be able to tell their own stories.

Waititi agreed that Aotearoa's tangata whenua may be leading examples of indigenous storytelling, but noted that the progress of Māori still has a long way to go.

"A lot of indigenous cultures will look to Māoridom and say 'Oh yeah, you guys got it right'. While, yes, we did get some parts right, there's a lot of shit we've got to work on," he said.

"Indigenous people should be writing their own stories… I don't think [a non-Māori person] would be able to make Boy how I did, because it's so specific to how many Māori have grown up and experienced things.

"It's very important that we put the stories in the hands of the people who own those stories".

Waititi is currently working on the World War ll comedy Jojo Rabbit, starring himself alongside Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson and Alfie Allen.


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