Maori Director Goes Inuit for...Green Lantern?

ICTMN Staff
1/3/11

Stuff has published its list of top 10 films of 2010, with a few predictable entries: The Social Network, The Road, Inception, even Toy Story 3. In among the blockbusters and Oscar candidates is Boy, a story about a joyous, Jacko-obsessed Maori kid growing up in New Zealand in 1984.

Let us back up. The Stuff that has made this list is the New Zealand news/entertainment megasite stuff.co.nz, not the American frat-boy magazine.

Boy is the second feature from writer/director Taika Waititi, who is of Maori descent. American viewers are most likely acquainted with his work via the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, several episodes of which he directed. His first feature film, the super-quirky romantic comedy Eagle vs. Shark, was a hit at several international film festivals and starred Conchords' Jemaine Clement.

In Green Lantern, the summer 2011 release starring Ryan Reynolds, Waititi plays Thomas Kalmaku, a talented Inuit mechanic who is one of Hal Jordan's closest friends, and in fact one of the few people who knows Jordan is Green Lantern. Kalmaku is also one of the few Native American characters in mainstream American comics. No product of the '80s political correctness, Kalmaku debuted in 1960, a time when ethnic diversity was not a priority in the comics industry. (He was, unfortunately, dubbed "Pieface" in his early years, a nickname derived from Eskimo Pie.)

Waititi is obviously a tremendous talent (he is also a successful standup comedian), but we find ourselves wondering -- was there no Native American or Inuit actor suitable for the role of Thomas Kalmaku? It's a minor role, to be sure, so the parallels are limited, but is a Maori Inuit any more or less strange (if at all) than Johnny Depp as Tonto?

Again, we wish to take nothing away from Waititi's achievements, and we're heartened when the work of any native or Aboriginal filmmaker wins acclaim. Here are trailers for Boy and Eagle vs. Shark -- two for the Netflix queue to be sure:

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