Taika Waititi's latest film Jojo Rabbit has won the People's Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival – long seen as a strong predictor for winning at the Academy Awards – but what does it mean for the box office?
Whale Rider producer John Barnett said the People's Choice award is "a really big award because it's a People’s Choice, so it's the audience award".
New Zealand-made Whale Rider won the coveted award in 2002.
"It's not judges sitting in a room making up their mind," he told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning. "Jojo's got a studio behind it with Fox, so they're going to put a lot of effort in, but it really does validate the picture, and I think it makes it accessible to a lot more people."
Mr Barnett said having Whale Rider play at the Toronto film festival, where it received praise from "one of the most significant reviewers", "really launched the whole film."
"From there, we went on to Sundance [Film Festival], we won there, and then we released here and all around the world," he recalled. "But Toronto was the one that made people sit up and take notice."
He said festivals have a significant influence on a film's success at the box office.
"There are six or seven really major festivals, and Toronto is one of those, and so when you win the audience award, you are stating to every distributor and every territory that this is a film that the audience likes," Mr Barnett explained.
"That means they put more money into promoting it, and they give it more sessions, and it means that reviewers everywhere look out for it and audiences look out for it."
Mr Barnett said while the subject matter of the film is controversial, Waititi, who directs and plays the role of an imaginary Hitler in the film, is "not scared of controversy".
He noted that Waititi was going to make a film on Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, before the studios "pulled the plug on that".
"I think that humour is a terrific weapon in bringing people down to size, and Charlie Chaplin did it with Hitler [in The Great Dictator]. If you look at a film like Life is Beautiful, it wasn't all humour, but it made the point about the concentration camps; it made the point about racism; it made the point about anti-Semitism. So I think that all of that is what’s going to be in Taika's film.
"This is the man that said New Zealand’s racist…He’s woke to all of this."
Mr Barnett said while he believes there will be "a lot of people who just won't go and see it because they don't want to hear that message", Waititi has chosen the right time to release the film.
"I think he’s a very, very clever filmmaker and I think he'll make a film that people will want to go and see."