8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...I come from a long line of chiefs."
In 2002, Niki Caro directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the endearing New Zealand film "Whale Rider", which was based upon novel of the same name written by Witi Ihimaera and published in New Zealand in 1987. (In Maori, the title is "Te Kaieke Tohora".) The story is about a young Maori girl named Paikea 'Pai' Apirana (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who...
Published on May 6 2004 by M. Hart
3.0 out of 5 stars "It's become even more than that . . . he needs a prophet."
Niki Caro's "Whale Rider" is an uplifting film that contrasts sharply from the generic Hollywood fare being churned out these days. It has an energy to it that is infectious and a story that is as unconventional as it is novel. It also showcases the most heartfelt and authentic performance by a young actress in quite some time.
A young Maori girl named Pai Apirana...
Published on Jan. 31 2004 by Steven Y.
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4.0 out of 5 stars DVD With Basic Features But Beautiful Film,
The DVD is presented in widescreen and features Dolby surround. The picture is clear and the sound is adequate for the film. There is a director commentary and a short making of as well. There are eight deleted scenes one in particular deals with a youth in trouble for breaking windows. I enjoyed the deleted material and the film works well without them. There are several TV spots and one theatrical trailer. Scene selection and menu access are easy and nothing of note. The commentary gives an insight into the creation of the film and reveals the whale scenes. Overall ordinary special features but a wonderful independent film.
5.0 out of 5 stars My heart stopped,
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best so far this year!,
I have one main disclaimer for this film. It can be boring. And it will be incredibly boring to the type of people who will want to see "Kill Bill" or "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." I admit, there isn't a fight scene at all and that can ward some people off. But all must take into consideration the beauty of this film.
I have already mentioned the whale image. But what else is beautiful is the relaitionship between Pai (the Oscar nod-worthy Keisha Castle-Hughes) and her traditional grandfather. Just think of it as a flower bud inside of a box when the owner is too busy to take it out and put it in the sun. The movie strongly focuses on how tradition starts to move away and their relaitionship's blossoming stage.
Bottom Line: This is one of the best films of the year so far, in that it delves into the depths of character study and the old Maori tribes of New Zealand to the point where you just feel this sense of inspiration and happiness. Incredible! A fine film. (I give it an A)
5.0 out of 5 stars Keisha Castle-Hughes WILL MELT YOUR HEART,
Of the wonderful things about the New Zealand film WHALE RIDER, the best of those things is the performance from first time, young actress Keisha Castle-Hughes. Whale Rider is a contemporary story set amid the nowadsays downtrodden natives of New Zealand about a Maori legend and the coming-of-age story about a brave adolescent girl, Pai (Castle-Hughes). Narrating the story of her own birth, Pai, now aged 12, tells of how she survived but her long-awaited twin brother, the first-born male and all that, died at birth as did her mother. There is an undercurrent of guilt as though she were somehow to blame. Soon after Pai's birth, her father, an artist, has gone to Europe to pursue his career in a new life -- away from his judgmental father and deteriorating Maori people.
The girl was named 'Paikea' after her founding ancestor, and Pai is raised by her grandparents. Her stern grandfather (Rawiri Paratene) is the tradition-bound chief of the village, and his influence has kept Pai interested in Maori legend and tradition. But as a girl, Pai is forbidden by her grandfather to take any leading part in ancestral traditions. Pai's kindly but tough grandmother (Vicky Haughton) nonetheless secretly supports her granddaughter's ambitions. When Pai's grandfather decides to educate the boys of the village in the ways of the proud past, she is barred. But she unobtrusively hangs around, eavesdropping and learning all the anceint rituals and warrior skills anyway. Pai's grandfather flies into a cruel rage when he discovers that his granddaughter has broken the ancient taboo by crossing the gender line.
However, Pai has a special spiritual relationship with nature and especially the whales, the very thing her grandfather is looking for in a new leader. When the time (and the whales) come, Pai nearly loses her life but proves to her grandfather that she is the one ready to lead.
WHALE RIDER is a visually enchanting, thoroughly engrossing story brought to life through very strong performances. It is a charming film that haswon People's Choice (audience) awards at the Toronto Film Festival and at Sundance, San Francisco and Rotterdam.
This is a very uplifting, completely entertaining, must see film.
4.0 out of 5 stars A portrayal of myth, feminism and adaptation,
The movie is based on an creation myth of some of the Maori people who believe that Paikea, their ancestor, came to the area on the back of a whale which rescued him when his canoe overturned. Drawing on this myth, New Zealand writer, Witi Ihimaera, wrote the book on which this movie is based while he was living in New York, when he saw a whale spouting in the Hudson River. The movie has come about eighteen years after the book.
The movie centers on the relationship between a twelve-year-old Maori girl, Pai, who is cared for by her grandfather, Koro, a tribal chief, and his wife Nanny Flowers. Koro, who is eager to ensure tribal succesion, trains the first-born twelve year old boys of the community in the requsiite Maori traditions for leadership, but refuses to admit Pai to these classes over her vocal protests.Pai nonetheless secretly eavesdrops on these classes and begins to master the use of the traditional Maori club.
I will sparing some other details which should however not be missed when you watch this. The movie reaches a dramatic climax after a group of whales are beached and are doomed to languish until Pai attempts a dramatic feat which nearly costs her life. After this ordeal, she is finally accepted as heir to the tribe which finds renewed strength after this.
There is a palpable emotional depth to this movie which comes across not in the dialogue, but in the moving facial expressions and the silent language which binds this community.
5.0 out of 5 stars Traditions survive by change:an emotional and beautiful film,
Don't let me put you off, if "child-friendly movie" sounds to you like something with a Robin-Williams-voiceover from the lowest pits of Hollywood hell. I feel that way about most movies "suitable for children". But this is something else; an emotionally honest, intense, and (I'm sorry; I'm not much good at this) life-enhancing film.
This is not a children's movie in any ordinary sense: there is absolutely no pandering, no cuteness, and no cheap manipulation. Nobody hurts another person in a clever and amusing way and milks applause by putting up one fist triumphantly and saying, "YESS!!"; and though the cast is not white, no-one looks at the camera and says, "Well, shee-it!", by way of comic relief; and no-one ... well, you get my drift. In short, this film respects its cast, its story and its audience; it respects childhood and it respects age; and so it earns your respect.
Here is a human story, about age and loss, youth and finding a way; and the preservation of an ancient way of life by allowing traditions to change and adapt. In structure it's a fairy tale. Koro, an elder of the Whangara-Mai-Tawhiti people, a Maori tribal group on the beautiful and isolated East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, is concerned that younger leaders should be appearing. But his own two sons have rejected that path; one to become an amiable dope-smoker with nothing in the way of ambition, the other to leave his home and people to make a career as an artist in Germany.
His only mokopuna, or younger descendent, is his granddaughter Pai. Pai shows over and again that she meets all the ancient tests of leadership, but Koro cannot see it, because she doesn't meet one of his criteria: she is a girl.
The story is predictable, in its way, as any European tale about a younger son who becomes a clever tailor and marries the princess. It's not Pai's eventual ascension to her rightful place that fascinates and involves, but the process; her own understanding that she has more to give than she knew, and that she has a duty to give it, and the slow realisation of those around her that she is someone special. And the pain, on both sides, caused by her grandfather Koro's failure to see what he needs to see, the truth that stares him in the face.
The pain the child and the old (not very old) man cause each other is intense, and sometimes unbearably moving to watch. One scene where Pai makes a speech in honour of her grandfather Koro at a school cultural night, and realises that Koro refuses to come to listen to her, will certainly have you in tears, and the people around you. And yet this emotion comes naturally from the characters, who have earned your sympathy. There is no shallow Spielbergian audience-manipulation here.
But Pai also hurts Koro. The chief of Whangara-Mai-Tawhiti should have the power to call the whales, who have an ancient relationship with the Whangara people, whose ancestor Paikea rode to New Zealand on a whale. And Koro is driven in despair to calling on the whales, only to have his despair deepen with the realisation that he cannot make the whales answer. But when Pai calls, and the whales come, she only brings disaster; they beach themselves, and even with the efforts of the whole people to rescue them and return them to the sea, some of them die. The arrival of the whales is a remarkable scene, involving computer imaging every bit as remarkable, but more subtle, as that in _Lord of the Rings_.
The acting in this film is extraordinary; veteran actor Rawiri Paratane dominates the screen as Koro, a tough and uncompromising character who is very easy to hate. But at the same time Paratene lets us know that Koro loves his granddaughter Pai, and that some of his toughness is because he believes it is in the interest of his people's future. While 11-year old Keisha Castle-Hughes, as Pai, doesn't just dominate the screen; she lights it up. Many superlatives have been directed at Castle-Hughes' performance, as a first-time actor. She deserves all of them. The rest of the cast are also superb, especially Cliff Curtis as Pai's father, who has abandoned much, though not all, of his Maori heritage, and Vicki Haughton as Pai's grandmother, Koro's wife, who heroically puts up with (mostly) Koro's stubborn blindness. The other performances are also spot on, especially the non-actors. A highlight is the trio of older women, who make a splendidly rude joke about Pai's idealistic insistence that smoking is "bad for their womanly properties". The film is often very funny, sometimes quite earthy.
Director Nicki Caro makes an impressive debut. The score by Lisa Gerrard is another highlight. I should also give credit to New Zealand, not only for its wild beauty, but for being a part of the world where indigenous people and newer arrivals have fought but also forged a way of living together, one that may be unique. There are things about the telling of this story, in the cooperation of the film crew and the people of Whangara, that have almost as much emotional resonance as the story on the screen. New Zealanders have taken this film to their hearts because it says something about the people they are, and they're proud of that. They're quite right to be.
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous film - impossible to compare it to anything else,
Pai wants to take a place of leadership within her tribe, but is prevented by her rigidly traditional grandfather. Although smart and respectful of her ancestors and the traditional ways and beliefs, she is denied any potential role because of her gender. The film focuses both on her attempt to fulfill the role she feels calling out to her, and her attempt to win the affection and acceptance of her grandfather, whom she loves despite his hostility.
This is a beautiful film, and the climax is as satisfying as one could hope. One must allow oneself to become a bit of a believer in things mystical and magical, else the film won't work at crucial moments.
The film is populated with complete unknowns, except for Cliff Curtis, who plays Pai's father. He has appeared in a large number of big budget Hollywood films, frequently as heavies, including THREE KINGS, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, and TRAINING DAY. Just about everyone does an excellent job, though Keisha Castle-Hughes and Rawiri Paratene as Koro stand out.
Although many of the houses are inexpensive looking and even in some instances mildly dilapidated, nothing can disguise the extreme physical beauty of the locale. With a large bay and sandy beach facing the ocean, and striking, magnificent mountains ascending behind the houses, the location is strikingly beautiful.
This is not always an easy film to watch. Some of the scenes in which various individuals are expressing their feelings can be very hard to take, and Rawiri Paratene can express anger that is extremely realistic. Nonetheless, this film as a whole is one that deals with the possibility of healing, of acceptance, and of learning to expand the boundaries of one's conception of the world. I recommend it highly.
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior to most "hollywood" movies.,
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful...but overbearing.,
Whale Rider tells the story of a young girl growing up in New Zealand. She's a member of the Maori tribe, an ancient people that still follow the patriarchal traditions of their ancestors. The young heroine grows up knowing that though she is from the line of chiefs, dating back to the ancestor who rode from Hawaii on the back of a whale, she will never be the leader of her people. Her grandfather, once a famed chief himself, binds himself by his traditions and refuses to teach her with the boys of the island. Of course, none of these boys are as fit to lead as she, a point which the movie doesn't fail to make in numerous occasions.
Although the pro-feminist point is laudable and extremely applicable to modern times, the message is laid on so think as to become unpalatable even by this militant feminist. The grandfather seems to relish holding his granddaughter back from excellence, while the heroine struggles on, alone and stalwart. It seems unlikely that these caricatures could exist in real life. The heroine, Keisha Castle-Hughes, does her very best, but the script quite simply can't help her. And we all know she's going to ride the whale...so the suspense was negligible.
If you're looking for a coming-of-age movie that showcases a girl in the main role, I'd recommend Spirited Away instead. Sure, it's animated, but the animation is beautiful and the story is a great deal more compelling. Plus the flights of fancy are obviously that, rather than passed off by the director as truth.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not bad for a girl,
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Whale Rider (La Legende des Baleines) (Bilingual) by Niki Caro (DVD - 2004)