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Whale Rider Review

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A Maori community, which claims to descend from the whale rider, Paikea, needs a new chief. When stubborn leader Koro’s son has twins and the boy dies, he refuses to accept his granddaughter, Pai, and blames the tribe’s subsequent misfortunes on her birth

★★★★

The New Zealand Tourist Board must have been thrilled with this lovely looking culture-fest, jam-packed as it is with stunning coastal views, glorious sunshine and rare insights into Maori culture.

It sensitively (but occasionally ploddingly) explores the relationship between set-in-his-ways Koro and his eager-to-please granddaughter, whose adoration for him is harshly countered by his bitter disappointment with her.

As she's a girl, Pai (expertly played by unknown Castle-Hughes) can't lead the tribe, so Koro's obsession with tradition sees him force a local crew of unsuitable lads into classes in the 'old ways.'

As he trains them in the art of being a warrior, Koro hopes that the new chief he so desires will reveal himself. But only Pai has the skills he's looking for.

Way more than just a Maori history class, the over-riding feeling here is one of great enjoyment.

Like a breath of fresh South Pacific air, director Caro combines classic themes with a little-seen cultural perspective to come up with an uplifting crowd-pleaser.