Taika Waititi takes out New Zealander Of The Year Award

What's Fresh 23/02/2017

Acclaimed filmmaker Taika Waititi has been named as 2017 New Zealander of the Year, and has sent his thanks in true clownish style with a video from LA. 

"I'm sorry I couldn't be there to celebrate, I'm stuck in Los Angeles. This is actually a cry for help, this video. I need you guys to come and get me, they won't let me out. You know they wanted me to say that they're treating me well. The meals are too big and everything's too loud here, the accents, it's horrible," he said.

Waititi's wife Chelsea Winstanley accepted the award on his behalf from Prime Minister Bill English, as the Hunt for the Wilderpeople director is in the US filming the latest Thor instalment.

"Thank you so much. I couldn't be more proud," he said. "It's a privilege to receive this award and I accept it humbly and gratefully.

"I'm also a New Zealander, so I'm slightly embarrassed. But I'm getting over it."

Ms Winstanley, along with Wilderpeople actor Julian Dennison, also accepted the Kiwibank kaitaka huaki cloak, Pouhine, from last year's winner Richie McCaw.

Waititi was honoured for his success as a writer, director, actor and comedian, as well as his passion for engaging youth in the arts and raising awareness of youth suicide and child poverty.

Waititi's fellow finalists were educator and research professor Mere Berryman and principal advisor for the Salvation Army’s Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit Major Campbell Roberts.

"I share this award with the other finalists, Mere Berryman and Major Campbell Roberts. Kia ora rā kōrua," he said in the video.

"You guys do amazing work and I'm proud to be included in this group with you guys, and also the other nominees. I think we're all striving to make New Zealand a better place through our work and through our love of our country.

"I'm sending all my love to my family and friends without whom I wouldn't be on this path and I wouldn't be doing the things that I do."

He said he also shares the award with all of New Zealand, "the greatest country on Earth".

"Taika Waititi is an exciting and inspiring example of who and what we are as Kiwis," says chief judge Cameron Bennett.

"His films represent the importance of whānau, of belonging and the challenges facing youth at the margins of society.

"He’s a special talent, a huge inspiration for young, up-and-coming film directors and producers and a thoroughly worthy recipient of this year’s supreme award."