Whale Rider
2003
A Maori tribe must contend with the distinctly nontraditional concept of having a female leader when the intended heir to the throne dies during childbirth, leaving his twin sister, Paikea, to prove herself in this inspiring coming-of-age tale.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

A winning family film, a beautiful travelogue of the New Zealand coastline, and an Oscar nominee for Best Cinematography and Best Lead Actress in an ideal world: This low-key charmer lives up to its hefty reputation. The outcome of the plot is never in doubt, but the unexpected path it takes to get there is a pleasure. Young Castle-Hughes is expressive and strong, but the most difficult role is played by Paratene, who succeeds at being many things to many characters (and many viewers). If the film has a particular weak point, it’s the languid ambient score by Lisa Gerrard.

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