7.6/10
37,034
361 user 158 critic

Whale Rider (2002)

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A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize.

Director:

Niki Caro

Writers:

Niki Caro, Witi Ihimaera (book)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 33 wins & 34 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Keisha Castle-Hughes ... Paikea
Rawiri Paratene ... Koro
Vicky Haughton ... Nanny Flowers
Cliff Curtis ... Porourangi
Grant Roa ... Uncle Rawiri
Mana Taumaunu Mana Taumaunu ... Hemi
Rachel House ... Shilo
Taungaroa Emile ... Willie
Tammy Davis Tammy Davis ... Dog
Mabel Wharekawa Mabel Wharekawa ... Maka (as Mabel Wharekawa-Burt)
Rawinia Clarke Rawinia Clarke ... Miro
Tahei Simpson Tahei Simpson ... Miss Parata
Roi Taimana Roi Taimana ... Hemi's Dad (as Roimata Taimana)
Elizabeth Skeen Elizabeth Skeen ... Rehua
Tyronne White Tyronne White ... Jake (as Tyrone White)
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Storyline

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 berkeley

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

One young girl dared to confront the past, change the present and determine the future See more »

Genres:

Drama | Family

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

New Zealand | Germany

Language:

English | Maori

Release Date:

29 August 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Jinete de ballenas See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

NZD 6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$137,418, 8 June 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$20,779,666

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$20,662,447
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the director's commentary, Niki Caro said that Pai's crying speech scene was done in one take, using two cameras. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties there was a short break.Keisha Castle-Hughes's tutor and chaperon helped her to stay in character. See more »

Goofs

When the grandfather attempts 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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
Paikea: 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]
Paikea: 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.
Paikea: There was no gladness when I was born. My twin brother died, and took our mother with him.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Dedicated to those who have gone before See more »

Connections

Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Strangest Prehistoric Creatures (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Jast Passing Through
Composed and Sung by Nick Theobald
See more »

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User Reviews

A real machismo meltdown.
20 February 2004 | by guancheSee all my reviews

A beautifully filmed and convincingly acted treat for the entire family. Adults need NOT beware since the film respects its audience and contains levels of depth suitable for all ages. Although ultimately an upbeat movie, there are some grim plot elements that may not be appropriate for very young or overly sensitive children. However, there's no actual violence or anything truly frightening or morbid.

This is the story of a 12 year old Maori girl who knows that she is born to the destiny her grandfather believes died with her stillborn twin brother. I won't spoil the ending (which is hinted at early on) with specifics, but suffice it to say that the story's ultimate lesson is that change is sometimes as necessary a component of living traditions as repetitive ceremony. And that the Maori must ride that "whale" as bravely as their mythological ancestor rode the whale from Havaiki (a satellite island of Tahiti, NOT Hawaii) to New Zealand. Not to destroy or denigrate their culture, but to ensure its vitality and continuity in the cultural matrix of the modern world.

A great lesson in true cultural diversity without preachy slogans or "politically correct" censorship. It should be shown in all the world's classrooms. Keisha Castle-Hughes is unforgettable as the heroine, and richly deserves the Oscar for which she has been nominated.


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