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Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit wants you to know it’s a satire

The first footage from the Kiwi director’s Hitler-mocking movie is intent on not being misunderstood.

Taika Waititi’s film Jojo Rabbit, in which the New Zealand actor-director plays Hitler as an imaginary friend to a young German boy during the Nazi era, is being careful to pitch itself as a satire in the lead-up to its October release.

The first trailer for the film trumpets it as “a satire that goes to war against hate” over a clip big on slapstick gags and featuring Waititi’s Hitler sounding not unlike Viago, his vampire in the spoof What We Do in the Shadows. The poster for the film features a stylised hand in a peace sign doubling as a silhouetted rabbit’s head with no war or Nazi-related imagery and a prominent tagline: “An anti-hate satire”.

Most of the trailer focuses on young Roman Griffin Davis as Johannes, a pre-teen member of the Hitler Youth off to camp, where, given the cowardly nickname that titles the movie, he seeks the solace of Waititi’s Fuhrer-figure.

“Let them say whatever they want,” Adolph advises the youngster. “People used to say a lot of nasty things about me. ‘This guy’s a lunatic. Look at that psycho, he is going to get us all killed’.”

The clip shows a brief glimpse of Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, the Jewish girl Johannes’ mother hides in their house – the main plot device in writer Christine Leunens’ 2004 original novel Caging Skies from which Waititi adapted a screenplay, making the children younger and introducing Hitler as a character seen only by Johannes.

While there’s a brief shot of Stephen Merchant as a Gestapo captain, there’s no other indication of the film’s Holocaust aspect.

The trailer comes soundtracked by Thunderclap Newman’s hippy-era 1969 hit Something in the Air, which adds a whimsical touch to the clip which also shows briefly the film’s other stars Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson. It’s unlikely the song, already much-used in the movies, will feature in the soundtrack which is by Oscar, Grammy and Emmy-winning Hollywood composer Michael Giacchino.

The film is the first release by Fox Searchlight since the arthouse studio was acquired by Disney this year. Waititi’s next film will be Thor: Love and Thunder his second Thor superhero feature for Disney-owned Marvel after 2018’s hit Thor: Ragnarok.

Jojo Rabbit will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening around the world, including New Zealand, in October.

Caging Skies, which has also been adapted as a stage play, is being republished in October with new covers citing the story as “inspiring” the movie.