Whale Rider (2002)
Director: Niki Caro
Writers: Niki Caro, from the book by Witi Ihimaera
Stars: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Cliff Curtis, Vicky Haughton, Grant Roa, Mana Taumaunu, Rachel House, Taungaroa Emile
Twelve-year-old Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is the heir to the chief (Rawiri Paratene) of a Māori tribe that is losing touch with its traditions.
As a girl, however, she is not qualified to assume this position, even though her father (Cliff Curtis) is not willing to fill the position.
Pai feels a tremendous load of guilt and responsibility toward both her people and her stern grandfather as a result--she feels that she can be the kind of leader her people need if only she were given a chance.
This fine film explores the tension between the necessity and inevitability of change as well as the importance of respecting tradition.
The cast of this film is magnificent.
Castle-Hughes gives the finest performance by a child actor that I have ever seen--even better than Sean Nelson in "Fresh."
Her Pai seems completely natural, strong yet vulnerable.
Paratene and Vicky Haughton, who plays Pai's grandmother, also deserve special mention.
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