Whale Riders Film Analysis

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When choosing a film for this assignment, my original choice was Bend It Like Beckham because I had heard of it and I had a general idea what it was about. I then decided that I wanted to take on a more challenging film, one that I had never heard of, and one that I would really have to study to understand its full meaning. After looking into a few of the listed movies, I ended up choosing Whale Rider, a drama filmed in New Zealand in 2002. After watching the movie two times, I feel that I now understand some of the more drastic cultural and gender based problems that are occurring today.

The film's plot follows the story of Paikea Apirana, yet she goes by the name Pai in the film. Pai is a 12-year-old girl who is the only remaining child in the line of the tribe's chiefly succession after the death of her twin brother and mother when she was born. By tradition, the leader of the tribe should be the first-born son, or a direct descendant of Pai’s family. Yet because there is no direct male descendant, Pai’s grandfather Koro Apirana has to find the next male leader amongst their tribe. Koro is the current leader of the tribe and has to set up a series of tasks that are required to become the next leader of the tribe. Unfortunately, Pai is female and technically cannot inherit the leadership.

Throughout the movie, Pai’s grandmother Nanny Flowers encourages her to train just as the boys of the tribe do to hopefully convince her grandfather to name her the new leader. One of the final tasks to be named the tribe leader is to retrieve a whale’s tooth from the sea by riding the back of a whale out to sea, hence the name of the film being Whale Rider.

After watching this film, I feel that the director Niki Caro is trying to explore the ways that gender and power are exemplified in certain cultures around the world. I feel that the main example from this film involves the main character Pai being female and how that limits what she can and cannot do in her...
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