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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
Niki Caro said during the director's commentary that Pai's crying speech scene was done in one take, but using two cameras. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties there was a short break however, in which time Keisha Castle-Hughes's tutor and chaperon helped her to stay in character in with the same emotions. 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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A present day New Zealand community of Maori tribe people is waiting for the sign of a new chief to be born and lead the village and it's community to greatness. Many have been born, but for the village elder all have been disappointments. The beginning of the movie starts out with the birth of 2 fraternal twins, with the grandfather patiently awaiting the birth of the son. Unfortunately the boy dies while the girl lives, and resentful is the elder who blames the girl for the sons death since he was the last recent hope for the village to gain a chief.
Then something happens as the film flashes forward 12 years. The girl "Pai" (pie), is discovering that her community needs her, and all the signs point that she must lead her people. There is only one problem. The chief must be a man.
It's at this point the film literally becomes a simple story, as a young girl goes about trying to convince her awful grandfather that she is to lead the village. Many obligatory scenes are set up, and we all see the pre-destination, but it is the transformation that the viewer witnesses that is so powerful, and a payoff that can only be described as awe-inspiring.
Incredibly touching, deeply moving, wonderfuly acted, and beautiful cinematography, it's not small surprise why this film is a winner. Pai is a complete scene stealer, and it's finally nice to see Cliff Curtis show off some true acting skills. For Cliff who has played everything from a tattoed Hispanic gang leader in Training Day, to a Arab villan in the Majestic, it's pleasing to see him in a character that mirror's his true national identity since he is actually a New Zealander and not a Hispanic or Arab person. He must be incredibly proud to be part of this special film. The actors who played the grand parents are exceptional particularly the stubborn grandfather who's demands Pai keep away from all male activities (The grandfather's insistence to teach a young group of boys in a special school how to be chiefs, and Pai's insistence to learn without her gradfather's knowledge provides most of the light humour in the film).
Amazing film easily one of the best of the year
Rating 9 out of 10.
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