Home > Lifestyle > Family > DVDs
Friday September 6, 2013 MYT 2:25:00 PM
Friday September 6, 2013 MYT 2:48:37 PM
Cast: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Cliff Curtis
Running time: 105 minutes
I had actually seen this film on its release in 2003 on the big screen but watching it today and on a much smaller screen hasn’t taken away any of its beauty nor reduced the weight of the film’s underlying messages.
To top it all, this New Zealand production, ably directed by Niki Caro, features one of the most striking and memorable performances by an acting debutant in Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays the lead role of Paikea. Twelve-year-old Castle-Hughes received an Academy Award nomination for her role.
The film begins dauntingly with the death of a male twin at birth, along with its mother. The female twin survives and is named Paikea by her distraught father, who leaves his Maori village in New Zealand to travel abroad. Pai is raised by her grandfather Koro (Paratene), a strict traditionalist and current leader of the tribe and her wise and patient grandmother Nanny (Vicky Haughton). Pai’s birth has unwittingly broken an age-old tradition of the tribe being led by the first-born male heir, and Koro is ever bitter over the fact. And although he loves Pai deeply, he excludes her from the special classes he is giving other first-born males in the village in the hope of finding a suitable leader.
It is plainly obvious to all and sundry that Pai is the most suitable candidate but her grandfather refuses to cave in and would rather give up than break tradition. But with the help of her grandmother and her uncle Rawiri, Pai secretly tries to learn the way of the ancients.
I don’t want to give too much away but although the story might sound all too familiar and you probably know where it’s going to end, director Caro still manages to surprise you with the “how” as he exercises considerable restraint to prevent it descending into sentimentality.
There are three reasons you have to see this film. The first, as mentioned earlier, is the superb performance of Castle-Hughes. The weight of this film was on her shoulders but the newcomer carried it off effortlessly, completely convincing you that she was a highly spiritual and proud Maori but a 12-year-old kid nevertheless. In fact, the entire cast performed exceedingly well, especially Paratene.
The second reason is the setting of this film in the east coast of New Zealand. The rugged beauty of the coastline is simply stunning, and Caro does a tremendous job in making it integral to the story.
And finally, you need to see this movie because this is how family movies need to be made – chock-full of valuable messages without pandering, and wrapped in a marvellous fable that is at once inspiring as it is entertaining. Highly recommended. – Review by S.N.
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Entertainment, DVD review, movie, Whale Rider
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)