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On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea's direct descendants. Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal New Zealand tribe, believes she is destined to be the new chief. But her grandfather Koro is bound by tradition to pick a male leader. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny. Written by
The East Coast shirt worn by Uncle Rawiri refers to his home town, Whangara, being at the eastern tip of New Zealand's North Island. See more »
When the grandfather is attempting to fix the small outboard motor, the rope he is using snaps leaving portions of the rope still attached to the motor. A moment later, the rope fragments are completely gone. See more »
In the old days, the land felt a great emptiness. It was waiting. Waiting to be filled up. Waiting for someone to love it. Waiting for a leader.
[child birth scene]
And he came on the back of a whale. A man to lead a new people. Our ancestor, Paikea. But now we were waiting for the firstborn of the new generation, for the descendant of the whale rider. For the boy who would be chief.
There was no gladness when I was born. My twin brother died, and took our mother with him.
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Whale Rider is a story of the quest for the new leader of an indigenous Maori tribe living on an island off the coast of New Zealand. Often this type of film ends up making a caricature of the people, accentuating their quaint customs and idiosyncratic behaviors and causing us to smile condescendingly at their ignorance and stunted development. Whale Rider does nothing of the kind. Director Niki Caro treats her subject matter with profound respect, genuine curiosity and effortless grace, while refusing to ignore the signs of cultural disintegration. It is as if we are invited into the Whangara community, and are free to observe comfortably, without fear or embellishment. The 11-year-old first-time actor Keisha Castle-Hughes gives the most astonishing performance by a child that I have ever witnessed, and lifts the movie from being just plain good to a profoundly moving experience. Whale Rider is a tale of the evolution of a culture, wrapped in humor and hope. It is a story of an indomitable spirit. It is a movie about love and change, about the grim realities of life and the marvelous miracles of faith. If you have a chance to see this film, do not miss it!
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