Fox Searchlight Delivers Two Buzzworthy World War II Tales With ‘A Hidden Life’ & Surprising Black Comedy ‘Jojo Rabbit’ – The Contenders L.A.

Mihai Malaimare Jr., left, and Michael Giacchino Rob Latour/Deadline/Shutterstock

Fox Searchlight Pictures enters the awards conversation this year with a pair of stories set during World War II that are radically different in tone.

With Jojo Rabbit, director Taika Waititi manages to create dark satire out of the story of 10-year-old Jojo (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis), who participates in Hitler Youth drills as Germany’s war machine is starting to crumble. He shares a friendship with an imaginary Führer, with Waititi as a slapstick Hitler channeling Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Jojo begins to re-evaluate his ideology when he discovers a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his attic.

Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis in 'Jojo Rabbit'
Jojo Rabbit Larry Horricks/Fox Searchlight

Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up) provided the score, which makes use of choral music among other elements. His working relationship with Waititi was ideal, the composer said.

“I really felt like we were on the same page from Day 1, and he just trusted me to take care of my job on the film,” Giacchino said. “We had amazing conversations about a lot of different scenes because it was a very unbelievably difficult movie to tightrope-walk. But the biggest thing is [Taika] is just so much fun to work with. It was like having one of my friends over, one of my 10-year-old friends over making movies, and it was great. It had a lot of silliness. It was good.”

DP Mihai Malaimare Jr. won Cinematographer of the Year at the Hollywood Film Awards for his work on Jojo Rabbit.

“It was very hard not to laugh” on set, Malaimare admitted, but he added: “I didn’t really see it as a comedy. I think [Waititi] is using comedy for a bigger purpose.”

Jojo Rabbit won the People’s Choice audience award at TIFF and has collected $1.9M at the box office to date.

‘Jojo Rabbit’ Trailer: Imaginary Hitler, German Monkees & David Bowie Add To Satire

Fox Searchlight’s A Hidden Life, directed by legendary auteur Terrence Malick, tells an altogether more serious tale from the Second World War. It’s based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis.

Pachner Michael Buckner/Deadline/Shutterstock

August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds) stars as Jägerstätter, with Austrian actress Valerie Pachner as his wife.

Pachner told the Contenders about landing the role of a woman facing the imminent loss of her husband, who faces death if he doesn’t join the Nazi fight.

“I got called by a casting director in Berlin … and I didn’t have anything to prepare, which I liked,” she recalled. “I just got in and they gave me one of the original letters [from the couple] and I sort of improvised with it. Three weeks later, I got the call that I’m cast.”

‘A Hidden Life’ Trailer: Terrence Malick And Fox Searchlight Together Again For True WWII Tale

Malick won the François Chalais Award at the Cannes Film Festival, where A Hidden Life had its world premiere. Pachner described the filmmaker as a man of few words,

“He’s all about deep talk and not small talk,” the actress observed. “He just infuses some calm and clarity that makes you forget about the small things in life.”

A Hidden Life, acquired in a deal in the $12M-14M range, played Telluride and TIFF after its Cannes debut. It hits theaters December 13.

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