Synopsis by Andrea LeVasseur
Based on the novel of the same name by Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, Whale Rider is a unique family drama directed Niki Caro. On the eastern coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their ancestor Paikea was saved from drowning by riding home on the back of a whale. The tribal group has since granted leadership positions to the first-born males, believing them to be descendants of Paikea. This tradition is challenged when a young mother dies in childbirth along with her newborn male son. His twin sister manages to survive and the father (Cliff Curtis) runs off, overwhelmed with grief. The little girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), is brought up by stubborn grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene) and gentle grandmother Nanny (Vicky Haughton). Koro, the chief of their tribe, is disappointed because Pai's twin brother was supposed to be the next leader. Trying to find the proper successor, he attempts to organize a leadership group amongst the local boys while Pai enlists the help of her has-been uncle Rawiri (Grant Roa) to teach herself the art of chiefdom. She appears to possess a natural leadership ability and adventurous spirit that draws her to the proliferation of her faltering tribe. Whale Rider premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and won the World Cinema Audience Award.
New-Zealand, Maori, legend [fable], girl, leader, mysticism, tradition, tribe, coming-of-age