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A small Maori village faces a crisis when the heir to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived only by his twin sister, Pai. Although disregarded by her grandfather and shunned by the village people, twelve-year-old Pai remains certain of her calling and trains herself in the ways and customs of her people. With remarkable grace, Pai finds the strength to challenge her family and embraces a thousand years of tradition in order to fulfill her destiny.
- Eight deleted scenes with optional commentary
- Behind-the-scenes featurette
- "Te Waka: Building the Canoe" featurette
- Art and photo gallery
- Whale Rider: The Soundtrack Showcase
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Top customer reviews
The story is set among a group of Maori in present-day New Zealand. The two main characters are the chief of this group ("Paka") and his troublesome 13-year old granddaughter ("Pai"). The grandfather loves Pai as a granddaughter but also blames her for "the troubles," which he believes started the night she was born. (Her brother, who should have become the heir, died at birth, as did the mother; the father, Paka's eldest son, was so distraught that he fled New Zealand and established himself as an up-and-coming artist in Europe -- abandoning his people, in Paka's view.)
From the beginning, Pai shows unusual talents and interest in "the old ways," but Paka cannot see it because of his obsession with a male heir. At one point he gives up on his family and starts a school to find the potential heir among the first-born sons of the tribe -- with rather unpredictable results. If Amazon had a 6 star rating, I'd give this movie 6.
The casting of this movie is brilliant. The conflict between Paka and Pai sizzles and the supporting characters (notably Paka's wife and Paka's two sons, the father and the uncle) are brilliant. Even the walk-on characters, like the other tribe members and the boys who attend the school are great.
The scenery is fabulous and the story unfolds in a beautiful way. The movie is enjoyable on so many levels -- as good entertainment, as an inspiring story, as an interesting perspective on a different culture, or as a story on the generational conflict, families, and love.