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
Much of the film is about Paikea doing traditional Maori things women were not supposed to do, like sitting in the canoe and fighting. The cast and crew performed special Maori chants to ward off traditional bad luck that might arise from Keisha Castle-Hughes doing those things. See more »
When the girl has been crying and her father is comforting her on the boat, he wipes the tears from her face. In some shots, you can see where he wiped the tear. In other shots, a tear that has tricked down to her chin. In some other shots, she has a tear that hasn't traveled so far. 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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Slow pace but never boring. Small girl 'Paikea' touches your heart with her quiet strength and determination. Time and again, she faces prejudice from her grandfather whom she never gives up loving. Her grandpa loves her too, but tradition and the single-mindedness that Paikea will never be the leader of their tribe forces him to refrain from showing his true emotions towards his only granddaughter. But young Paikea never gives up; she respects grandpa's decision and masks her desire to become the whale rider of her tribe.
The remarkably beautiful and serene scenery of New Zealand complements the eventual inner peace that Paikea achieves. To save the whales their tribe loves so much, she shows remarkable calmness in guiding the whales back into sea despite death staring her straight in the face.
An inspiring and well-executed film.
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