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Film Review: JoJo Rabbit

Which is why today these movies should be watched in a broader sense rather than just limiting it to the Jewish plight. To measure and understand the fears of a persecuted minority at the hands of an authoritative majority anywhere in the world and to understand the systematic radicalisation of ordinary people through mass media in order to dehumanize, marginalise and demonize the persecuted minority is crucial.

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The name of the movie ‘JoJo Rabbit’ has been taken from one of the scenes set in a Deutsches Jungvolk, the junior section of the Hitler Youth, where a 10-year-old boy named Johannes Betzler is being repeatedly called ‘JoJo Ra-bit’ and mocked for failing to kill a rabbit. The killing of the rabbit is a process for the child to prove his worthiness.

The story revolves around the conflict between the inner and the outside world of the 10-year-old, wherein the inner soul is innocent, affectionate towards all the living beings – irrespective of their caste or race, wants to play, make friends and follow butterflies on streets. On the contrary the boy is surrounded by people and circumstances that remind him of his responsibility, the duty and loyalty he has towards his country, that consequently withers his childhood.

JoJo Rabbit is a 2019 comedy drama film which was written and directed by Taika Waititi based on Christine Leunen’s 2008 book Caging Skies. The film has received both criticism and several accolades wherein the crew has received 14 awards and has been nominated for various other prestigious awards.

The film opens in an attic where JoJo prepares himself both mentally and physically for the weekend training in the Jungvolk. He with the hundreds of other boys and girls of his age are being trained to hate and kill people of other races, to stab daggers, throw grenades, dig trenches, fire guns, blow stuff up, burn books and is conditioned to think that Aryans are a thousand times more civilized or “relatively European” than any other race in the world and consequently the others deserve to be killed. Kids are also conditioned to think that to be merciful towards others is to be cowardly and scared.

The film has countered some antisemitic myths and prejudices prevalent in the society. For instance, in one of the scenes, JoJo and his best friend Yorkie discuss the question ‘how do we recognise a Jew since they are also humans like us?’ to which JoJo replies that they have horns and smell like brussels sprouts. Probably this is a consequence of the propaganda that ignited antisemitism at the time.

Jewish people might have smelled like brussels sprouts because of their living conditions but ‘Jews do have horns on their heads’ depicts the mythical propaganda and misinformation propagated by the state, and the blind and unquestionable belief of the ordinary citizens. In his essay ‘Antisemitism in Britain’ George Orwell has shared and justified some antisemitic prejudices. In one of them he said:

Then again, Jews are to be found in exactly those trades which are bound to incur unpopularity with the civilian public in war-time. Jews are mostly concerned with selling food, clothes, furniture and tobacco – exactly the commodities of which there is a chronic shortage, with consequent overcharging, black-marketing and favouritism.

He concluded in his essay:

If one judged merely from these war-time phenomena, it would be easy to imagine that antisemitism is a quasi-rational thing, founded on mistaken premises.

The purpose of making movies like JoJo Rabbit (2019), A boy in a Striped Pyjama (2008) and The Schindler’s List (1993) is to highlight the plight of Jews during the Holocaust and antisemitism faced by the Jewish community which will undoubtedly haunt the generations of Jews. In the quadragenarian part of the 21st century, Zionists themselves were a source of persecution for over a million palestinains in 1947. They have ethnically cleansed the Palestinians by illegally encroaching their villages, demolishing their houses, annexing their lands and building illegal settlements on it. The Zionist movement has imposed draconian laws in order to silence the resistance voices as in the case of recent Israeli Facebook Bill which is made to target the journalists and activists who shed light on Israel’s violence against Palestinians. The Bill allows the Jewish regime to remove posts and news articles too.

Which is why today these movies should be watched in a broader sense rather than just limiting it to the Jewish plight. To measure and understand the fears of a persecuted minority at the hands of an authoritative majority anywhere in the world and to understand the systematic radicalisation of ordinary people through mass media in order to dehumanize, marginalise and demonize the persecuted minority is crucial. Last but not the least, these type of movies should also be watched to learn the red flags of a totalitarian regime.

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