South Pacific Pictures


Contemporary New Zealand where a Maori tribe waits anxiously for the birth of the first born of the new generation. For the descendent of Paikea, the Whale Rider. For the boy who will be chief. But the boy is stillborn, the first of twins. The second is a girl, named Paikea by her mother before she too dies. Pai’s father, grieving deeply, leaves his daughter to be raised by her grandparents. Koro, Pai’s grandfather and the chief, hardens his heart against her. A girl is no use to him. But Koro learns to love the child, and when her father returns after an absence of twelve years, Koro believes has a successor. Someone to restore life and pride to the diminishing community. Someone to show their people a future. But Pai’s father has no intention of becoming chief. Koro argues bitterly with his son, suggesting that if he leaves again, he can take Pai with him. Pai, devastated, agrees to go but on leaving finds herself drawn to the sea. To an ancient connection to the myth of the Whale Rider. She knows she cannot leave. Ignoring his grand daughter’s return, Koro begins an obsessive search for a boy to succeed him. He initiates a training school for the first born boys, convinced that the future leader will be revealed to him. Pai, as a girl, is forbidden to attend. When Pai is discovered trying to take part, Koro rejects her. She has broken the tapu, the sacredness of the school. Koro’s fears are confirmed when the boys face their final test, diving for an ancient piece of whalebone and failing to retrieve it. Koro is inconsolable. His search for a leader has failed. Pai grieves for her grandfather, instinctively calling to the sea, reaching out to the whales for guidance. Deep within the ocean, the whales respond, drawn to her and their twin destinies. When Pai dives and recovers the whalebone, her grandmother urges it to be kept secret. Koro, deeply depressed, remains blind to Pai’s suitability. He isn’t ready yet. But as Pai delivers a heartbreaking tribute to her absent grandfather at a school concert, Koro is horrified to discover that dozens of whales have stranded on the beach. Koro understands that this is an apocalyptic sign and fears it is his own grand daughter that is to blame. Dawn comes revealing a community united but exhausted in their attempts to save the stranded whales. Pai wakes and understands that this is her fault. She watches as a massive bull whale beaches, willing her grandfather to be strong enough to take charge. If they can send it out to sea, the other whales will follow. But the bull whale is determined to die and Pai grieves for her grandfather as the community admits defeat. No one notices Pai approach the whale, pressing her forehead to the whale’s in an ancient greeting. No one notices until too late that that she has climbed on the whale’s back...

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