Whale Rider


This film deserves all the kudos that got thrown its way in the past year or so.

Basically it is a fantastic film, filled with fantastic actors, and brimming with emotion.

I’m not exactly sure what makes a film so powerfully emotional. It could simply happen when all departments do their job perfectly, or then again maybe it happens when the director is so dictatorial that the story gets in no way diluted. Then again it could rest solely on the shoulders of a couple of great performances. Whatever it is, it certainly happened with Whale Rider.

The film itself is nothing new, and the plot very predictable, but all the same it worked for me, and I must confess I had to hold back tears at a couple of points (something which hasn’t happened since In America – I dare you to keep your tear ducts dry in that film).

This film was a hell of a lot more powerful for me than The Passion Of The Christ, and I know more about Christianity than I do about Maori culture or whales (and that’s saying something… I only worked out that Jesus was a Jew three or four years ago…). Whilst I have no particular connection to any long established cultures, Whale Rider still managed to push all the right buttons when it came to exploring traditional notions of history, family, culture and belief.

Of course Keisha Castle Hughes is as wonderful as everyone says (and I reckon she and Samantha Morton should have had a showdown for the best actress Oscar). There’s something about the naivete and conviction of child actors that means they often kick arse over well established plyers of the trade. Let’s hope over the years she doesn’t get seduced by Hollywood and watered down through years of faceless mainstream movies (Star Wars Episode III, anyone?).

Whale Rider was the kind of film I wish we had in Australia. There are very few Australian films that I think are truly fantastic. Rabbit Proof Fence came close, but Beneath Clouds was the only Aussie film of recent years that truly struck a chord with me.

Anyway, bravo Whale Rider.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 20th April 2004
Hoopla Factor: 4 stars

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