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.