Whalerider (2003)

Filed under: — reisneus on June 5th, 2003 11:06:18 pm

whalerider.jpgNew 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.
author picture reisneus (34 posts)


  • Aotearoa / New Zealand is a beatiful land, with beautiful people. I have come to terms with that fact, finally. And WhaleRider is set in THAT isolated landscape….

    Comment by Joulsey — Sat January 28, 2006 @ 10:54
  • I liked the movie, and I’m a teen. Our English teacher made us watch it for an assignment, I thought it was great…. but a bit perverted (like dicks dropping off) and all that. The guys thought it was sucky but the girls were like it’s great and our teacher was like that’s sooooo sweet (she meant the ending).
    The story line could be more intresting- the assignment was sooo boorriinngg!!! but the movie was okay…EXCEPT I HATE KORO HE’S A SEXIST!!

    Comment by Janet — Thu April 20, 2006 @ 12:48
  • do u go to elwood out teacher made us watch that shit also i needa no if u guyz think if pai is a leader or not cause itz an essay and i cant b stuffed……….GO SWANS!

    Comment by dylon — Mon June 12, 2006 @ 9:34
  • I for 1 luved that film, have seen it about 6 times and am still not sick of it, GO NZ!

    Comment by Alex — Mon August 7, 2006 @ 8:27
  • shitest movie eva

    Comment by mundooks — Tue August 22, 2006 @ 9:56
  • I think this film was amazingly filmed and everything i read the book before hand so I would understand the film. I bought the film sat down with my popcorn( and tissues after all the reviews i had read about it!) and cried in some parts were the whales are dead are they really dead or are they pretend? But my main concern was when did it end? I have watched it 6 times through and still don’t understand the ending could anyone help me?
    Add me on msn: x-o-xmegsx-o-x@hotmail.co.uk
    cheers xx

    Comment by megster — Sun December 10, 2006 @ 11:01
  • I live in New Zealand and I think a movie like this is exactly what New Zealand needed to be out there on the film market. But a movie like this definatly describes how families are within a Maori culture its a very nice movie. I think now with the publicity from LOTR being filmed here as well as The Last Samurai. New Zealand will most likely be showing better things.
    Oh by the way has anyone seen Her Majesty that is also filmed in NZ and i’m in it as an extra 😀 But I was wondering does anyone know where I can buy it from?

    Comment by Nikki — Thu January 25, 2007 @ 7:09
  • Yes, HER MAJESTY is available on DVD in New Zealand

    Check with the NZ distributor’s web site (www.arklesentertainment.com),
    but at various times I’ve seen it available from Madman.com (store.co.madman.nz — I think) and AroVideo, as well as other
    brick and mortar and online vendors.

    By the way, the extras in the movie were terrific — costumes,
    makeup, period look. You did a great job. I love that movie
    as does almost everyone I’ve spoken to who has seen it!

    Comment by Lucy Beth — Thu March 29, 2007 @ 18:06

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