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USA: Newmarket Film Group
UK: Icon Film Distribution
Cast: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa, Mana Taumaunu, Rachel House, Taungaroa Emile, Tammy Davis, Mabel Warekawa-Butt, Rawinia Clarke, Tahei Simpson, Roi Taimana, Elizabeth Skeen, Tyronne White, Taupua Whakataka-Brightwell, Tenia McClutchie-Mita, Peter Patuwai, Rutene Spooner, Riccardo Davis, Apiata Whangaparita-Apanui, John Sumner, Sam Woods, Pura Tangira, Jane O'Kane, Aumuri Parata-Haua, Heemi Taumaunu
Director: Niki Caro
Countries: New Zealand / Germany
USA: 105 mins
UK: 101 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference
UK Certificate: PG contains mild language and emotional intensity
USA Release Date: 6 June 2003 (Limited Release)
UK Release Date: 11 July 2003
In a small New Zealand coastal village, Maori claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider. In every generation for more than 1000 years, a male heir born to the Chief succeeds to the title. The time is now. The Chief's eldest son, Porourangi (Cliff Curtis), fathers twins, a boy and a girl. But the boy and his mother die in childbirth. The surviving girl is named Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes). Grief-stricken, her father leaves her to be raised by her grandparents. Koro (Rawiri Paratene), her grandfather who is the Chief, refuses to acknowledge Pai as the inheritor of the tradition and claims she is of no use to him. But her grandmother, Flowers (Vicky Haughton), sees more than a broken line, she sees a child in desperate need of love. And Koro learns to love the child.
When Pai's father, Porourangi, now a feted international artist, returns home after twelve years, Koro hopes everything is resolved and Porourangi will to accept destiny and become his successor. But Porourangi has no intention of becoming Chief. He has moved away from his people both physically and emotionally. After a bitter argument with Koro he leaves, suggesting to Pai that she come with him. She starts the journey but quickly returns, claiming her grandfather needs her.
Koro is blinded by prejudice and even Flowers cannot convince him that Pai is the natural heir. The old Chief is convinced that the tribe's misfortunes began at Pai's birth and calls for his people to bring their 12 year-old boys to him for training. He is certain that through a gruelling process of teaching the ancient chants, tribal lore and warrior techniques, the future leader of their tribe will be revealed to him.
Meanwhile, deep within the ocean, a massive herd of whales is responding, drawn towards Pai and their twin destinies. When the whales become stranded on the beach, Koro is sure this signals an apocalyptic end to his tribe. Until one person prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the people. - the Whale Rider.
Based on a novel by Witi Ihimaera, WHALE RIDER was a winner at the Toronto International Film Festival 2002 (AGF People's Choice Award), Sundance Film Festival 2003 (World Cinema Audience Award) and Rotterdam International Film Festival 2003 (Canal+ Audience Award).