New Zealand, present day. Amidst an ancient Maori community, a girl is born. She’s been given the name of the mythical founder of the tribe. Paikea, the Whale Rider. Her grandfather and leader of the tribe resents her bearing that name. By tradition, it should only be given to a man, to a leader. The girl, Paikea, feels she needs to fullfill the destiny of her namesake. And her acts clash with the traditions and religion of the tribe.
Director Niki Caro did a great job. Especially considering it’s her first major production. She has taken Witi Ihimaera’s book and the myth of Paikea. And transformed it into a film that works on several levels at once. A criticizing but respectful portrait of Maori culture in general and the role of women in particular. A touching story of about a girl and her family and tribe. And a ‘pretty shots’ scenery film with lot’s of amazing New Zealand in it. (always a sucker for that ).
The cast consists of non-actors, residents of the area. Whose performance is admirable. But actors as well. Some of which we’re really good. Rawiri Paratene starring as Paikea’s grandfather was every bit the tough patriarch with a heart of gold that he needed to be. But most convincing was Paikea herself. Eleven year old, Keisha Castle-Hughes’ is really talented. I especially liked the part where the whale rider, inevitably of course, becomes the tear jerker. Most convincing crying scene I’ve seen in a long time.
OK she cries well. What else. Like I mentioned before. Really nice pretty pictures of Hills, and water, and a Maori boat, water, whales, water, shores, water. Beats the national geographic channel.
I will not get into the social and political message. First see for yourself what you think. In general the only two negative things I could find in this movie was it’s length. Some parts don’t ‘move’. And the Disney ending. Which is mildly OK if you keep your pink spectacles on. One to see, definately.
Rated **** (out of 5)
Travis has set up a Whalerider fan-site. Check it out.
Whale-Rider Fan Site
Come check out my collection of quotes from the people involved in making, Whale Rider.
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