Whale Rider

Whale Rider is one of those movies that you cannot help appreciate. A graceful, intelligent film about a little girl (Castle-Hughes) born to the son of a Maori chief in New Zealand who would rather have a boy.

Most everything about this film is enjoyable. From the crazily warped affection between the grandfather and the scrappy granddaughter to the excellent music to the bright and cheerful cinematography of the beaches of New Zealand.

There is nothing new in the story as it unfolds portraying the struggle of Paikea (Castle-Hughes) to get accepted in a male dominated Maori tribe. What is new is the wonderfully fresh treatment and the heartbreak that seems real and forces us to root for Paikea with all our heart.

A cast of mostly newcomers and non-professional actors does more than justice to the film. Niki Caro who directs the film based on a novel Witi Ihimaera does a fantastic job of mixing emotion and pure cheer.