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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