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Askew Review 15

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(Site) Drama. 101 minutes. PG-13. As the leader of a New Zealand Whangara tribe rich in heritage and tradition, Koro (Rawiri Paratene) finds himself without a leadership heir after his only grandson, one half of twins, dies at birth. Eleven years later, Koro’s granddaughter Paikea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), the surviving twin, tries to buck the patriarchal leadership tradition in the hopes of one day becoming the tribe’s chief. However, the more Paikea tries, the more her Grandfather rejects her.  Absolutely determined, Paikea continues her struggle to prove to the community, and more importantly her Grandfather, that she indeed has the spiritual and leadership qualities of her ancestors. 
Whale Rider will pull you in two different directions:  You will cheer for Paikea and the conflict she arises, but you will also understand Koro’s upholding of a strong tradition. Everybody respects Koro’s stance, but they also don’t want to deflate Paikea’s spirit and often help her “buck the trend” even though they know it flies in the face of their tradition and history. The relationship between Koro and Pai is one of love, respect, and disappointment, which at times really tugs at your heart. Yes, there is one scene that even got me a little misty in the eyeball area. Along with the acting being top notch in every aspect, the production values are stunning- location and soundtrack (which I intend to buy) being phenomenal. Side note; Keisha Castle-Hughes was an unknown before this role, but now she’s slated for a part in the next Star Wars movie…good for her. Not only is the movie great, but so are the DVD extras; director’s commentary, two behind the scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, soundtrack samples, galleries, etc. Whale Rider is a venerated exhibit of inspiration and a fine example of how to disrespect, if you will, in a respectful manner. - Denis Sheehan



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