Whale Rider

Length: 6 Pages 1562 Words

The film Whale Rider by Niki Caro, is a popular film highly rated among many critics across the globe. It has been nominated for many prestigious awards including Best Actress. Set on the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back one thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea's direct descendants. Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal New Zealand tribe, believes she is destined to be the new chief. But her grandfather Koro is bound by tradition to pick a male leader. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfil her destiny. When Koro decided to find a new leader in the young Whangara boys, Pai is denied the rite to sit at the front of the class and as a result of her refusal to move is asked to leave the teachings. With the help of her uncle she learns in the traditional ways and goes on to show Koro that she too can be great, that she too can inspire those around her, and that she too is capable of proudly carrying the family na Continue...


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By positioning the viewer to feel positively about this sub character Hemi, then making the audience feel great sympathy for him and the loss of his relationship with his father, the film has stirred feelings in the viewer. In this film many serious issues are addressed. Contrast is also used to question the viewer about their own cultural identity. This suggests that through connection with his cultural identity (elements such as Mau rakau and performing the Haka) he had not been dragged into the greed and unfulfilling life that the modern world causes. The changing role of women, importance of cultural identity and generational differences are some of the main issues that are dealt with in Whale Rider. This is shown specifically when the children and the elders watch all of Hemi's cultural display and his father is off gallivanting about with his posse. Eleven years later he is shown to have grown obese and lazy. We later go on to realise that he was a champion at Mau rakau, a traditional event and one that is defined by the Maori culture. Pai asks Po "Why doesn't he want me "He's looking for something that doesn't exist "I cant be what he wants "Me neither Po Replies. Whale Rider becomes popular with the audience by igniting certain feelings in them. Although at this time, her father has recognised but not truly respected his cultural identity because he has taken his art talent to other cultures. The necessity for respecting traditional beliefs is also shown through the character of Pai's uncle Rawiri. The importance of cultural identity is shown in the contrast of father and offspring relationships. Rather than a typical, physically strong, man-solider, a female hero brings in a breath of fresh air for the audience, and instils a sense of awe and amazement at Pai's leadership qualities.