Historical or cultural dramas have the greatest impact on me, and the best ones have always been books originally. The best conversion from book to movie is Niki Caro’s depiction of Witi Ihimaera’s book the Whale Rider (1987). Caro changed the storyline giving it his personal touch still keeping the key elements of the story.
Caro has a good eye for cast. Keisha Castle-Hughes was exactly how I pictured little Paikea, named after the Maori tribe’s hero. The story is quite sad. Paikea Apirana loses her mother at birth and is rejected by her grandfather Koro Apirana, the leader of her father’s tribe, for not being a boy. She barely sees her travelling father who is Koro’s first born.
Koro Apirana starst teaching the Maori traditions to the boys of his tribe to keep the traditions alive. The education is only allowed to boys, but Paikea constantly sneaks in to listen. When Koro finds out, he is furious at her. For example in one scene Koro is teaching the boys how to fight. He dismisses Paikea who is trying to imitate. She goes behind the corner and is followed by a boy. They fight and Koro hears the commotion. As he arrives Paikea wins the boy and Koro tells her to leave.
In the end a tragedy is needed to trigger Koro’s love for Paikea. And I think this is the most beautiful part of the story. Koro finally realizing who Paikea is.
What especially makes me feel for the movie is how old traditional cultures are disappearing constantly, because of the influence of the western culture. Many peoples lives have been wrongly disrupted, because of the greediness of the European imperialists. I’m no marxist, but I feel ashamed of calling myself a European for this very reason.