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Whale Rider Details


Based on the novel of the same name by Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, Whale Rider is a unique family drama directed Niki Caro. On the eastern coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their ancestor Paikea was saved from drowning by riding home on the back of a whale. The tribal group has since granted leadership positions to the first-born males, believing them to be descendants of Paikea. This tradition is challenged when a young mother dies in childbirth along with her newborn male son. His twin sister manages to survive and the father (Cliff Curtis) runs off, overwhelmed with grief. The little girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), is brought up by stubborn grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene) and gentle grandmother Nanny (Vicky Haughton). Koro, the chief of their tribe, is disappointed because Pai's twin brother was supposed to be the next leader. Trying to find the proper successor, he attempts to organize a leadership group amongst the local boys while Pai enlists the help of her has-been uncle Rawiri (Grant Roa) to teach herself the art of chiefdom. She appears to possess a natural leadership ability and adventurous spirit that draws her to the proliferation of her faltering tribe. Whale Rider premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and won the World Cinema Audience Award. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, Rovi

  • Release date:June 6, 2003


Awarded by
New Zealand Film Awards Lisa Gerrard Best Score 2003 Winner
Seattle International Film Festival Niki Caro Best Director Audience Award 2003 Winner
Independent Spirit Awards Niki Caro Best Foreign Film 2003 Winner
Chicago Film Critics Association Niki Caro Most Promising Filmmaker 2003 Nominee
Chicago Film Critics Association Keisha Castle-Hughes Most Promising Performer 2003 Winner
Screen Actors Guild Keisha Castle-Hughes Best Supporting Actress 2003 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Keisha Castle-Hughes Best Actress 2003 Nominee
Chicago Film Critics Association Keisha Castle-Hughes Best Actress 2003 Nominee


Keisha Castle-Hughes
as Pai
Rawiri Paratene
as Koro
Vicky Haughton
as Nanny Flowers
Cliff Curtis
as Porourangi
Grant Roa
as Uncle Rawiri
Rawinia Clarke
as Miro
Taungaroa Emile
as Dog
Tammy Davis
as Willie
Tahei Simpson
as Miss Parata
Elizabeth Skeen
as Rehua
Mana Taumaunu
as Hemi
Tyronne White
as Jake
Mana Taumaunu
as Hemi
Tammy Davis
as Willie
Elizabeth Skeen
as Rehua
Tahei Simpson
as Miss Parata
Taungaroa Emile
as Dog


Niki Caro
Tim Sanders
John Barnett
Frank Hübner
Witi Ihimaera
Book Author
Niki Caro
Leon Narbey
Lisa Gerrard
Composer (Music Score)
David Coulson
Grant Major
Production Designer
Grace Mock
Art Director
Reinhard Brundig
Witi Ihimaera
Associate Producer
Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Executive Producer
Bill Gavin
Executive Producer
Kirsty Cameron
Costume Designer
Dave Madigan
Sound/Sound Designer
Liz Tan
First Assistant Director
Diana Rowan