The parameters of the 'Whale Rider' begin and end with simplicity. Its a story, a journey, a walk into the life of a little Maori girl named Paikea. Born under unwanted and unavoidable circumstances beyond her power to mend, she steps into the world with the thirst to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses
Innumerable events reinforce the fact that she is a
girl born in a male dominated tribe, which demands
by tradition the leader to be a first born son - a
direct patrilineal descendant of Paikea - The Whale Rider.
As an unfortunate episode unfolds during the birth of Paikea, she loses her mother and her twin brother, leaving her grandfather to curse her being at every available occasion.
The silence of her grandfather throughout the movie highlights that characteristic beautifully. His expressional, numb face is sure worth a mention. To add to it, the frustration of the grandmother for being caught amidst the demands of the society, the stubborn attitude of her husband and an innocent girl is captured over a subtle narrow base.
The elements that cannot be ignored undoubtedly surround the girl as she narrates the story through her actions, manners, expressions and body language. The most explosive scenes are probably the most silent ones in the movie. Defining a new line of film making coming to surface along with the ingredients of art direction and costume designing that further adds to the existing simple flavor of the movie.
Paikea's clothing cannot be unnoticed, her innocent smile fills your heart, her simple make up completes her expressions and the landscape of Maori fills the framework well. A mention of the pace is a must in this movie, for the slow pace acts as the turning point in her life doing justice to various episodes and transitions.
Paikea's father though of insignificant space in the movie, makes his presence felt only during specific occasions, does adding to her existing struggle for her true desires, wants and freedom. A scene in the movie on the shore where the girl cries and pleads to her father to allow her to move in with him is simply beyond brilliant.
'Whale Ride' as the titles suggests is an ancient Maori tradition of leadership where the leader is the one who rides a top of a whale. And Paikea's journey is that of a whale rider, who is bold enough to confront the past, stand up against who ignore her presence by maintaining her strong stance and the want to face the future of freedom.
A make like this requires sincere understanding of the small yet varied scale of the various emotions and sentiments that need to be projected. A job well done in that aspect. Though at time a stagnant shot seems to really lead nowhere, yet its entire encounter projects the fragile impulse the director is trying to embellish upon. Niki Caro has indeed done an outstanding work and the little girl, Keisha Castle Hughes, was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, becoming the youngest actress ever nominated for the award, thanks to – ‘Whale Rider’.