Rider (1): Introduction
HUM 210 Online Course Pack - Fall 2006 - Prof. Cora Agatucci
MLA Style Works Cited bibliographical citation - film, DVD, videotape:
Whale Rider. Dir. Niki Caro. Perf. Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff
Film is adapted from the novel
Whale Rider (first published 1987) by Witi Ihimaera.
FILM SYNOPSIS: 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 [Koro's] eldest son, Porourangi, fathers twins - a boy and a girl. But the boy and his mother die in childbirth. The surviving girl is named Paikea [called "Pai" for short]. Grief-stricken, her father Porourangi leaves her to be raised by her grandparents. Koro, her grandfather ["paka"] who is the Chief, refuses to acknowledge Paikea as the inheritor of the tradition and claims she is of no use to him. But her grandmother, Nanny Flowers, sees more than a broken line: she sees a child in desperate need of love. As Paikea grows up, Koro learns to love the child. When Paikea's father, Porourangi, now a feted international artist, returns home after twelve years, Koro hopes everything will be resolved and Porourangi will accept destiny and become Koro's 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 his father Koro, Porourangi decides to leave and invites his daughter Paikea to come with him. She starts the journey but quickly returns, claiming her grandfather Koro needs her. Even so, Koro remains blinded by prejudice and even his wife Nanny Flowers cannot convince him that his granddaughter, Paikea, is the natural heir. The old Chief Koro is convinced that the tribe's misfortunes began at Paikea's birth and calls for his people to bring their 12-year-old firstborn boys to him for training. He is certain that through a grueling 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 Paikea and their twin destinies. When the whales become stranded on the beach, Koro is sure this catastrophe signals an apocalyptic end to his tribe. But he is wrong. Only his granddaughter Paikea can hear and respond to the ancient call, can mount and ride the mystical whale of her ancestors into the depths - willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her people and proving herself to be the true heir.
Witi IHIMAERA, author of the novel Whale Rider [first published in 1987] on which the film is based: Award-winning New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera (The Matriarch, Tangi) was inspired to write Whale Rider in 1985 while living in an apartment in New York overlooking the Hudson River. "I heard helicopters whirling around and the ships in the river using all their sirens - a whale had come up the Hudson River and was spouting," he recalls. "It made me think of my home town, Whangara [New Zealand] and the whale mythology of that area." New Zealand's indigenous Maori say that their ancestors came to New Zealand on a canoe. The people in Whangara and the East Coast believe their ancestor, Paikea, came on the back of a whale. The whale rescued him when his canoe over-turned. Ihimaera had taken his daughters to a number of action movies, and they had asked him why in all of those movies the boy was the hero and the girl was the one who was helpless. "So I decided to write a novel in which the girl is the hero and I finished Whale Rider in three weeks." Producer John Barnett was struck by the universality of the story when he first read it 10 years ago. "I think one of the most exciting things about Whale Rider is its international resonance - the themes are relevant in all sorts of societies and cultures throughout the world," he says. Witi Ihimaera approved film director Niki Caro's adaptation: "...she updated the story so that it is very relevant beyond the year 2002. It's not just about a community that is faced with a particular problem of ancestry and succession, it's also about women and how they need to find and make their own way in society. Pai has become this iconic young girl who is desperately trying to seek her own sovereignty and her own destiny in a male-orientated world."
|WHANGARA, New Zealand, the setting: "This novel was set in Whangara and it would almost have been heresy to shoot anywhere else," says Producer John Barnett. "There are physical things that are described in the book - the sweep of the bay, the island that looks like a whale, the meeting houses, and of course, the people whose legend we were telling...." "Working at Whangara has had a whole lot of benefits including the ability to use the local people in our background cast and extras," adds Sanders. "Many of the people in smaller roles and our extras are actually locals - untrained, but of course very familiar with the Paikea legend and with their surroundings here." The collaboration of the local Maori community and Hone Taumanu, the kaumatua [elder] of Whangara, gained with the help of Witi Ihimaera, was essential to the success of the film. "In many ways, because it was the real area where the story has come from, we weren't cheating in our depiction. We weren't pretending that the wharenui [meeting house] was there when it wasn't. The beach was there; the waka [canoe] was there; even Koro's house was there," explains cinematographer Leon Narbey.|
Synopsis of Novel,
with Comment on Gender Roles in Traditional
THE BACKGROUND... In 1986, New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera, living in New York City, saw a whale stranded up the Hudson River. The sight made him homesick for the area he grew up in, and made him think of the story of the ancestor of his area. Over a period of three weeks, he wrote "the Whale Rider" - a story of Kahutia-te-Rangi, a story of Whangara, of small-town rural New Zealand, a story of the changing and breaking of years of Maori tradition and teaching. The story of a Maori chief whose eldest great-grandchild is not the boy he wanted. The story of a girl called Kahutia - Kahu - who could be the next chief. . . .
Kahutia was a girl who was meant to be a boy.
She is the first child of her generation in the chief's family, and
her birth breaks a long line of chiefs, stretching back to Paikea
himself. Further than that, when she was born her mother died, and her
father was not willing to just put things behind him, marry again, and
produce another child (preferably a son) any time soon. In the movie,
this is more tragic, more poignant. The movie is about a girl
called Paikea, and over the opening scene, you
hear her words: "There was no gladness when I was born. My twin
brother died, taking our mother with him." This is the kind of life
Kahu/Paikea leads… growing up with the knowledge that she was
meant to be a boy, that she was meant to grow up to be chief of the
Note: Paikea is the name of the heroine of the movie; she is called Kahutia in the book. Koro is her grandfather ("paka") in the movie: in the book he is her great-grandfather.
Source: Kahutia/Paikea - The Whale Rider. 22 April 2003. Relative Gems [no web author given]. [Last accessed:] 5 Jan. 2004 <http://www.geocities.com/ratesjul/whalerider.html>.
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Last updated: 18 September 2006