I have been putting off watching this film for quite some time. The response from those when I mention I haven’t seen it has been one of bewilderment. Repeated statements of it being Taika’s best film, of it surpassing similar films.
The reason hasn’t been because I don’t want to, or that because the hype was putting me off, it is because I took one read of the synopsis, and knew that this film would be perhaps the most relatable film I have ever seen.
Something about me that you need to know at this point, I am half Māori. My Grandmother on my Father’s side was Māori, and as such I have a lot of the genetic traits. Dark skin, brown hair and eyes, built like an All Black. My brother is the same, although he is a bit taller and a lot skinnier than I, lucky bastard.
I also have not seen my Father since I was 4.
Unlike my brother who wasn’t born when he left for NZ, I have memories, feelings, associations with him. Looking back at old photographs, I knew that he loved me, but that is where it ends. He wasn’t around for me and my Mother, and when the choice was given to him to step up and become a good Father, he cowardly left. As such I have had very minimal contact with him, and that has been a choice of my own choosing. There have been attempts made, but none of them seemed like it was his choosing, that it was a serious decision for him.
Like the titular character of BOY, I came to realise that the man that is my Father is just a man.
Boy has built up this ideal version of his Dad, someone who takes on the world, who would do anything for his sons. And then he learnt that this wasn’t the case.
I am very lucky in that before my brother was born, my Mother met the man that she would eventually marry and who became my Dad. At 5 I remember feeling that this was new, that there was a man in my life that would do anything to help me, to make me happy, to make sure that I had the best start in life (albeit 5 years later). Over the years since then I, like Boy, built up this amazing and incredible picture of who my Dad was. The total opposite to my Father. He stepped up. He raised me and my brother as though we were his own, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I saw myself in Boy. I have spoken on my podcast (Kinotomic, check it out folks), about representation and how it matters. I have said that until THOR RAGNAROK I never really saw anyone like myself in a big budget movie before. Watching BOY, it dawned on me how much representation matters to me. My Māori roots are a unknown entity for me, what I wrote at the start is all I know. Because of my Father and me wanting very little to do with him at the moment, it is very difficult for me to come to terms with my roots, with what being Māori is.
But because of my Dad, because of the man who raised me, I have come to terms with who I am. And I have all the thanks to give to him. Representation in BOY for me is not just seeing people that look like me, the dark skin, the dark brown eyes, it is also seeing my own experiences in these characters.
This is a very personal post for me, I am even debating publishing it, but this is one I had to write. I had to get these feelings and thought down.
Taika Waititi is an extraordinary filmmaker. Since his move to Hollywood, his work has become more mainstream, I really hope that he returns to the well of BOY and HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE at some point. It is is a POV that so very rarely gets given any light in the mainstream media, and if a name like his can share these stories then we would all be thankful for it.
If my Father reads this, well, actually I don’t care.
If my Dad reads this, I love you Dad. Thank you.