Premiere - 06/01/2003
"...[Featuring] Niki Caro's brisk direction, the bracing otherness of the coastal New Zealand landscape, and the fantastic performances of a wonderful cast..."
Rolling Stone - 06/26/2003
"...There's magic in it....A film of female empowerment that resonates deeply. Castle-Hughes is a star in the making. She and her movie are worth cheering for..."
New York Times - 06/06/2003
"...Ms. Caro treats the material with the calm of a silent film and exploits the extravagant beauty of the location for its majesty....It has the inspiring resonance of found art..."
USA Today - 06/06/2003
"...Moving, dreamily paced....Caro gives the fablesque story -- based on a 1,000-year-old Maori legend -- both a contemporary and timeless quality, anchored by newcomer Castle-Hughes' powerful and haunting performance..."
Los Angeles Times - 06/06/2003
"...A substantial film of unexpected emotional force..."
Entertainment Weekly - 06/13/2003
Movieline's Hollywood Life - 07/01/2003
"...[The film] has enormous charm, pathos and visual beauty, thanks to the talents of director Niki Caro..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 12/21/2003
"What a splendid film for the entire family! Keisha Castle-Hughes stars in a sparkling performance..."
New Zealand's Maori culture is the focus of WHALE RIDER, the powerful coming-of-age tale of Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a 13-year-old girl who feels destined to become leader and chief to her tribe although that role has always been reserved for males. In part, the role is her birthright, as her twin brother died in childbirth, and she survived. However, her grandfather, Koro (Rawiri Paratene), who is the current chief, stands firmly in the way of Pai's dream. He is extremely traditional and is superstitious that even Pai's curiosity in learning to be chief could upset the ancestors (who are the whales themselves). Pai's grandmother, Flowers (Vicky Haughton), defies Koro to support Pai, and her uncle, Rawiri (Grant Roa), trains her in the chants and battle techniques she needs. The rest is intuition, and Pai has loads of it--enough to communicate with the ancestors, and call them to her for help and guidance.
Weaving family life, cultural tradition, and an ancient myth into a contemporary story, WHALE RIDER is a tender tale. As Pai, first-time actress Castle-Hughes is a small but impressive warrior, perfectly balancing kid naivety with adult bravery. The traditional costumes, language, chants, and personality of the Maori people come through well, while the tale is clearly a modern fiction, based on a novel by Witi Ihimaera. Beautiful and dramatic New Zealand landscapes and dreamy underwater whale photography cement the formula of the film and add to its magic.
Coming Of Age |
Essential Cinema |
Teenage Girls |