The Whangara people believe their ancestor Paikea was saved from drowning by riding home on the back of a whale. The tribal group has since granted leadership positions to first-born males, believing them to be Paikea descendants. The village is in crisis when the leadership heir dies at birth, survived only by twin sister Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes). Shunned by her village, Pai summons the strength to challenge centuries of tradition to fulfill her destiny.
An early-2000s arthouse smash hit from director Niki Caro (MULAN), WHALE RIDER won Toronto International Film Festival’s World Cinema audience award before enrapturing worldwide audiences and garnering preteen lead Castle-Hughes an Oscar nod for Best Actress.
“So many films by and about teenagers are mired in vulgarity and stupidity; this one, like its heroine, dares to dream.” — Roger Ebert