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Whale Rider (2002)

One young girl dared to confront the past, change the present and determine the future

Directed by:

Niki Caro

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

Country: New Zealand (Aotearoa), Germany

The idea of making a film about a remarkable youngster shunned by a staunchly-traditionalist parent figure really isn’t an incredibly new one. Think ‘Billy Elliot’ or ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and you’ve already got two textbook examples from Blighty. But I must be a sucker for a nice bit of scenery, because I’ll take the lush fields and breezy beaches featured in New Zealand’s ‘Whale Rider’ over the backdrops of those two films any day.

‘Whale Rider’ is the story of Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a young girl resented by grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene) for the heinous crime of being born a female. He longs instead for a grandson to carry on the family name, as they are the last descendants of the original Maori leader who, according to legend, went about on a whale. Under the circumstances, you’d think that Pai would jump at the chance to flit to Germany with her long-absent dad, and you’ll wonder why on Earth she doesn’t when that opportunity arises. Perhaps it’s because the place is so full of Germans – though I stress that that’s just a guess.

So, shunning his granddaughter despite her continual attempts to impress, Koro seeks out a new great chief among the first-born boys of the local neighbourhood. Meanwhile, Pai sets about upstaging each of the lads with her superior skills at stick-fighting, swimming, and pulling faces – and even goes as far as to go riding on a whale. She does it to show Gramps 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 name. I’d probably have done it predominantly out of spite, but those other reasons are good too.

Just like the stubborn parent-types in those two films mentioned earlier, Koro is an infuriating character to watch and 105 minutes of his moaning can be tough on the system. But this is a strangely-engrossing film, beautiful to look at and featuring probably the best child performance of the year from Castle-Hughes. It’s probably not one that’s going to be appreciated by the kids (despite its ‘family’ tag) but, if you can, send the ankle-biters in to ‘Rugrats Go Wild’ and slip next door to watch this one.

It's Got: An incredibly saddening scene featuring beached whales.

It Needs: To inject a little more humour.


Picturesque, slow-paced, atmospheric and very well-acted – but lacking a little in spark and invention.


  1. Rhiannon
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    This is such a good movie

  2. Kelly Xane
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    This is the worst movie I have ever seen !!!

    LAME !

    poor effort!

    I wouldnt recommend this!



  3. Jen Chan
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    this is really really bad

    omg never ever see it !

    i thought pai was a boy !

  4. Posted November 11, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink


    shes beautiful ok
    and it a good movie

    you probably didnt evan get it

    WEIRDO !!

    bum heads!!

  5. Posted November 11, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    That gurll id mean

    its a good mivie but

  6. Posted December 2, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    this is a really good movie
    u people r mean an she has short hair but doesnt look like a boy!
    i would recomend this movie

  7. C
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    I love love love that movie,

    I would recommend it to everyone.

    Best child performer ever.

    Bravo Keisha.

  8. Posted April 20, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    i love this movie but it needs more humour

  9. Posted April 20, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    its time to shine freaks

  10. Ellie
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I love this movie!!! It’s so sad though!!!

  11. Posted April 29, 2010 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Is pai a guy? She called the whales. So did I. But it did not work:( instead they went to japan

  12. Posted May 1, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    FUNNY MOVIE(in a bad way) 0.000000000012/10

  13. SuzTilda
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    rar! the movie was good for a drama and i would recommend it to people who like that sort of stuff, however, i freakin love commedies so it was good……. but not my sort of thing.

  14. Tromps
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    This move is really, really LAME

  15. Posted May 27, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    This movie absolutely sux!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    This movie tastes like poo and smells like whale poop in my mouth. I thought Pai would rape the whale? Lolz.

  17. gachara
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    this movie is alright 3/5 (: but its really different from the legend

  18. BaCha
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    ZOMG u guys r so mean!
    the movie’s all right, even tho the acting isnt perfect if u ask me.
    well the movies kind of boring but the it tells you bout the nz cultures so it isnt THAT bad 😛
    Cheers!! X)

  19. gachara
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    LOL BaCha 😀 yeah agreeeeed lol and like when nanny flowers sings in maori language we dont know what it means :L

  20. ground
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    this movie is ok. But I enjoy it pretty much.I hate Koro a bit

  21. purplescreen
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    my screen is blue

  22. Lindsay
    Posted February 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    This movie really sucks. My world religions teacher made the class watch it, and everyone hated it. We all thought it was long and boring and the subtitles weren’t even accurate. It’s really stupid, and I resent how the grandfather suddenly decides to stop hating Pai because she almost dies. He’s hated her ever since she was born, and suddenly he doesn’t? That change didn’t even make sense, and the ending was not clearly presented.

  23. abrok1
    Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    To all who posted anti or negative comments. look at yourselves in the mirror. Do you have the least understanding of what culture is???

    I think not. Are you even part of a culture? By your comments I think not!!!

    If you had any understanding of culture or any cultural awareness your disrespectful remarks will one day apply to you.

    This was a sensitive movie of a proud culture striving to uphold values of the “ancient ones”. It depicts a contemporary version of strength, courage and overcoming of adversity by a strong people.

    If you cant comprehend that stick to watching “The Simpsons” because thats more the mentality you exhibit by your comments.

  24. b
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    laugh laugh have a another laugh
    now i know that this is messy
    but no
    it doesnt come around does it.
    it fills clothes.
    shei shei

  25. Paikea
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    hey m8’s
    dis film is gd n ting
    dnt dis it init
    coz i iz maori bruv.

  26. Attima
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I liked this movie, and i thought that PAi acted really well. I dont like koro but i feel sorry for him, hes trying so hard to keep up tradition! 🙁

  27. Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    i need help wit mine

  28. Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    ha ha lol its so funny.!!

  29. Meagan(Kamoa) :] keep da peace yall :]
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    it makes me sad dat sum of u didnt appreciate or understood wat dis film was about,just cuz u no undastand sumting does not mean its stupid okrey…cuz dats jus u bein naive,ignorant nd close minded,also reading dat sum of u watched dis in class means ur stil in school…which makes me believe sum of u r stil immature nd dont kno wat da heck is happening in da world smh,lol ur probably trying to act cool,tease,bully or go along wit da crowd jus so u can belong sumwhere.If “Whale Rider” for example was a foreign student and u guys made fun of…jus cuz he/she was different cuz da way dey talk,look,act etc does dat make dem lame,stupid or sumting to laf abt no…does it make u cool,better or smarter…no dat jus makes u hurtfull mean nd ugly…nd by da way dis film was awesum anyways nd probably accomplish more den u nd i combined. :)much alofa’s

  30. Jordan
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Sounds like most people didn’t get it. I’ve cried at the end every time I’ve seen it. Its been praised by professionals. The girl who played Pai is also the youngest actress to ever be nominated for an Academy award for Best Actress so sorry guys your observation that the acting is bad clearly doesn’t hold up.

    Nominations for academy awards are hard to get for adults much less 11 year old kids. She was freaking 11. She beat out adults for one of the most competitive awards.

    I think Jennifer Lawrence is second or third youngest for Winter’s Bone as she was 19.

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