Whale Rider is a film version of the novel by Witi Ihimaera from 1986, in which a rite of passage is mixed with Maori mysticism. The story starts when a young mother dies during birth along with the baby boy. The girl baby, Pai, survives. The father, Porourangi, is overwhelmed by sorrow and flees the country. The lively Pai is brought up by her grandparents, Koro and Nanny Flowers. Koro is completely obsessed by finding a male shoot that will show the stem the way to the future. When Porourangi returns a couple of years later with his pregnant German girlfriend, he and Pai are shown the door by Koro in a moment of anger. But Pai doesn't want to leave. She will show her true identity when many whales ? holy animals according to the Maoris ? wash up on the local beach...The story, which cheers up at the end, in which Keisha Castle-Hughes beautifully plays the role of Pai, is not defaced anywhere by false notes, unnecessary sentimentality, cynicism or doubt. Using the beautiful landscapes and the authentic performances of both people and whales, Caro succeeds in telling a moving magic-realistic story, with characters who display both innocence and wisdom.

Filmmaker
Niki Caro
Premiere
-
Country
New Zealand, Germany
Year
2002
Medium
35mm
Length
105’
Language
English
Producer
South Pacific Pictures Ltd., Pandora Film - OUD, John Barnett, Tim Sanders, Frank Hübner
Sales
The Works Film Group
Writer
Niki Caro
Production Design
Grant Major
Cast
Cliff Curtis