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Is Hunt for the Wilderpeople a True Story?

October 1, 2020
3 min read

Today, Taika Waititi can boast about ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Jojo Rabbit’ in his substantial directorial resume. But before the New Zealand director could get his hands on meaty tentpole films, he first found fame with homegrown cinematic content. The movie traces the journey of an oddball father figure-son duo as they become the target of a manhunt. Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, and Rime Te Wiata, Waititi’s ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ struck a particular chord with the audiences. Let’s find out whether the movie is based on real events or not!

Is Hunt for the Wilderpeople Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it is adapted from the popular book, ‘Wild Pork and Watercress,’ from New Zealand writer Barry Crumb. One of Waititi’s cinematic trademarks – a cameo by the director himself in each of his films – prominently features in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’ Waititi plays a curt, eccentric minister at a funeral in the movie. Interestingly, the role of the minister was, in part, inspired by a real-life event. Waititi had attended a funeral presided over by an oddball of a minister.

He then decided to base the character of the reel-life minister on his real-life counterpart. With a keen eye for detail, the director attempted to do cinematic justice to the wacky minister’s character. ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ also has a treasure trove of Easter eggs waiting to be unraveled. Waititi cheekily suggested, “For those who know their Kiwi film they will find a bunch of Easter eggs of references to classic Kiwi films.” For Waititi, art imitates art. In the film, the director strategically places several sly nods to the best of New Zealand’s cinema and television, the most apparent being ‘Smash Palace.’

In the classic ‘Smash Palace,’ a former race car driver turned car wrecker strains and eventually ends his crumbling marriage. The car wrecker’s yard in the vicinity of Mount Ruapehu is shown in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’ The cartoonish shootout at the end of Roger Donaldson’s hit 1981 flick is also slyly referenced. Waititi’s film also features another subtle wink to ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’, a classic blockbuster in New Zealand’s cinematic history. The 1981 flick has a similar comedic flavor to ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’

In ‘Goodbye Pork Pie,’ an unusual duo embark on the escapade of a lifetime in a little yellow Mini. Waititi’s film features an ode to the yellow Mini, which became an icon after the release of ‘Goodbye Pork Pie.’ Another iconic Kiwi movie that ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ pays homage to is ‘Come a Hot Friday.’ The 1985 hit is a rib-tickler about two con-men with a comically nefarious plan to run a betting scam in a small town. The original movie features an unforgettable cameo from Billy T James as The Tainuia Kid.

In the same vein, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ showcases a cameo from Rhys Darby. One of its most apparent and prominent references is to an 80s’ Crumpy and Scotty Toyota Hilux ad, which involves a car chase sequence that plays out in an old ute. A Cadbury Flake ad from the 1980s was also used as a reference point in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’ So, not only does the Waititi movie pay tribute to New Zealand’s many cinematic wonders, but it also tips its hat to NZ’s most notorious television commercials.

Read More: Best Taika Waititi Movies

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