Whale Rider

Title : Whale Rider
Genre : Family Drama
Rating : 3/5
Starring : Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene

I am sure all of us have heard of traditions that seem bizarre, yet are perfectly acceptable, in other cultures. This film, which is set in "New Zealand", begins by telling us of a tradition in the "Māori" culture. In that tradition, the first born son of a family is a candidate to inherit the leadership passed down from the first ancestor "Paikea", the "Whale Rider", he who rode atop a whale from "Hawaiki". But, fate ordained that the first born of the family we are introduced to in this film is a girl. Her mother died given birth to her, and her twin brother that also died in labor. Not to forget the dislike of her grandfather, who is in charge of educating the candidates about the traditions, of the fact that the first born is not a boy. Now the chain is broken, and this is the basic key to this film.

Are traditions really an excuse to differentiate one child from the other? Though she is a girl, a girl only asking the acceptance from her grandfather, she is showing much more dedication and determination, two qualities of a great leader, than the other boys. She could've left with her father, who is an artist residing in Germany, yet she chose not to. Can the only mistake she made was being born a girl? And are traditions really that solid?
"There was no gladness when I was born."

The script is alright, it isn't hard to comprehend, so no viewer would face trouble understanding the message of the film. It's narrated by "Paikea", the name given to every first born. The writer did a good job in conveying how much sticking to old traditions could sometimes blind people, such as the grandfather, and also through the tongue of the characters, gave us a clear view of each one's standpoint.

The director, "Niki Caro", did make her touch, like in the scene when "Paikea" rode the whale, but other than that, she is average. We can't say she didn't have enough materials, low budget, or any other factor that can be used as an excuse; she just did what the script wanted, without having something special made. She didn't take full use of it. "Orson Welles's" direction in "Citizen Kane" is a brilliant example of a creative director.

The ensemble of actors and actresses was good enough to make this film work, though if it wasn't for the strong, yet delicate performance of "Keisha", I probably wouldn't have seen this film. The cast did what they can, within the limits of their potential, but this is the difference between the cast of "On the Waterfront" for example and this one.

The film on a technical merit isn't complicated, why would it be? It's quiet forward and it's better this way, too much complications would make the film dull. Its budget of 6 millions NZD was about what a movie like this would take. It really didn't need state of the art technology to make it work. The soundtrack was nothing special to be remembered, it gave some moments a better touch, but that's about it.

This is a good movie. I liked watching it but, I probably won't watch it again. Recommended to any one interested in movies out side the circle of Hollywood. Also, the whole film, as I saw it, was based around "Keisha's" performance, a quiet convincing one, if it had failed, the film would have failed.


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