Screenplay author and director Niki Caro faithfully translated Witi Ihimaera's novel of the same name, a poignant and sometimes sad but ultimately uplifting story of New Zealand Maoris seeking, with the leadership of a difficult, stubborn and often harsh elder to sustain their peoples' values and customs. Australia and New Zealand are both encountering, in politics and in culture and often the two are inextricably linked , their shared heritage of white oppression of native peoples.
Much of this history is unknown to Americans and Europeans who view Australia through a bird's eye picture of the Sydney Opera House and New Zealand with even fewer associational icons. Recently, "Rabbitproof Fence" painfully depicted the policy of Australia to force lighter skin aborigines into "schools" where they would be nurtured to become "semi-whites" and then married to those of similar skin tone. The object was to bleach the blackness out of Australia and the horrors of this incarnation of cultural and anthropological genocide are on full display in that film. There are virtually no whites in the film and only children's t-shirts and some music blasting from a boombox suggests the encroaching force of the controlling majority.
The cast is unknown to Americans and their names can be found on the IMDb homepage for the film. The lead actress, however, must be named.
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In the role of "Pai," a young girl whose mother dies at her birth along with her twin brother, is the extraordinary Keisha Castle-Hughes. She imbues every scene with a commanding and inviting vitality. Hers is an Academy Award and any other major award performance. Pai's father left New Zealand for Europe, there to create and sell Maori crafts. She lives with her grandmother and grandfather, the latter some sort of unelected chieftain of the oceanside community. Bitter that no male heir will succeed him and alternately cruel and loving to his reluctantly acknowledged granddaughter, Koro starts a school to supplement the young boys' secular education with inculcation of the ways of the Maori.
Pai wishes to join as an equal and is firmly, indeed harshly rebuffed at every turn. If the Maori language has the phrase "You go, girl! It would have been easy to make her the kind of thoughtless rebel that nature often programs teenagers to be. The depth of her character resides in her simultaneous quest for equality and her understanding of her grandfather's unyielding attachment to patriarchal values. Pai's close relationship with her grandmother, a woman living a life universally recognizable to Americans, provides warmth and support and do some of her other relationships.
The story unfolds seamlessly with Maori music and rituals bridging the spoken dialogue mostly in English, some in Maori with subtitles. Partly a straight tale, partly a gripping mystical fable, "Whale Rider" never becomes saccharine.
The music and Maori songs complement but do not compete with the dialogue, a welcome change from many movies today. The land and the ocean are rawly gorgeous.
As in Australia, relations today between New Zealand's indigenous people and the descendants of their vanquishers are sometimes tense. There are open wounds from continuing political collisions over land and culture.
The Maoris are not a monolith and internal dissension is active. Serious attempts to sustain Maori values and culture in the face of assimilative pressures meet with varied degrees of success in Koro's Maori school the kids wear t-shirts with rock themes and one has a shirt advertising an upstate New York resort area if I saw correctly.
New Zealand's most internationally renowned Maori is the opera diva Kiri te Kanawa who is now dedicated to Maori cultural restoration projects.
This is a film I will acquire on DVD as soon as it is available. Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video. Start your free trial. Who Nearly Starred in 'Charlie's Angels'? February Movies.
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Paikea Rawiri Paratene Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as we get you up close to the action. Our purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC the Department of Conservation for dolphin viewing and our crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters.
Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands. Choose to pre-book a picnic lunch, bring your own food, or there is hot and cold food available to buy on board. A full commentary is provided by your skipper. A limited number of multi-lingual headsets are available in German, French and Mandarin Chinese. Translators must be pre-booked. Printed multilingual maps available in Chinese, Japanese and German.
The crew were great and engaged with the kids. We enjoyed the many sights we stopped at, the kids loved the dolphins, the boat ride and the snacks.
The crew were lovely. If we wanted to we could have gotten off at Russell and they would have brought us back later to Paihia on the passenger ferry, complimentary!
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Explore the Bay and its scenic highlights as you cruise out past the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett and the famous Hole in the Rock. Our Highlights of the Bay combo takes you on a scenic adventure full of history, culture and stunning coastal highlights.
Cruise through the Hole in the Rock and journey past Cape Brett Peninsula while watching out for dolphins on afternoon cruise and other marine wildlife.