Saratoga Jewish Community Arts, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY and sponsored by Temple Sinai, presents a zoom discussion of Taika Waititi’s 2019 film JoJo Rabbit on Sunday, January 30 at 7 p.m.
The film is about ten-year-old JoJo Betzler, growing up in a perilous environment seasoned with shameless propaganda. The film takes place late war Nazi Germany where JoJo is living with his mom; his dad is out of the picture in service.
Jojo joins the junior section of the Hitler Youth. Heavily indoctrinated with Nazi ideals, he creates an imaginary friend Adolf, a buffoonish version of Adolf Hitler.
Though an early fanatic, JoJo receives the nickname “Jojo Rabbit” after refusing to kill a rabbit to prove his worthiness.
JoJo lives a rather secluded existence. His sense of abandonment and loneliness makes every relationship a cherished one. He shares in the outdoor childhood adventure of his peers; however, he finds it hard to make friends.
The narrative is an exploration of belonging and a search for truth. The film can be read as a brave and insightful portrait of an autocracy, more than any contemporary work of art has offered.
It is a satirical drama with a heavy dose of pathos. While containing explosive moments that find us chuckling, if not outright laughing, it delivers a jolt along with a jeer. JoJo Rabbit makes us uncomfortable. It makes us remember the good and the bad, the cold truths, and the fairy tales of childish imagining. And it converges comedy and sobering sincerity to produce a story that condemns hate and, by extension, antisemitism.
“In a strange way, this is an inspiring story,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of SJCA, “clearly preferable to visualizing the millions of people who died during the Second World War because of a maniac whom no one took sufficiently serious until he was suddenly in power and whose insane ideas had incredible traction.”
Although set during World War II, the movie’s disdain goes beyond the core of its drama, to mock people who hate based on ethnicity, to expose the power of propaganda and adult manipulators who indoctrinate such hatred in children, and to suggest an eventual antidote for such hatred – namely, personal relationships that prove the humanity of the persecuted minority.
Although JoJo Rabbit is set in the past, it puts forward a political idea in the present tense. The film is marketed as an “anti-hate satire,” not as an “anti-Nazi satire. For once, advertising is truthful. The movie is not substantially about Nazi Germany but uses it as an allegory for current-day expressions and politics of hatred. It ultimately cautions against the easy contempt and dismissal of the “haters” by those opposed to such hatred.
SJCA will present a zoom panel discussion of JoJo Rabbit on Sunday, January 30, at 7 p.m.
It is available to see on a wide variety of streaming services including Amazon Prime, You Tube, Apple iTunes, and Redbox. Registration is required and is accessible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org