Whale Rider Parent Guide
Moving at the gentle pace of a calm ocean tide, this beautiful film explores the importance of family, the qualities of leadership and the anchor of cultural traditions.
Parent Movie Review
Legend holds that centuries ago, Paikea the Whale Rider, traveled on the back of a whale to the remote New Zealand coastline. There on the rocky shore, he became the first to inhabit the land where his descendents now live. His people have honored him ever since by choosing the first-born male offspring of his blood line to lead their little tribe.
For Chief Koro (Rawiri Paratene), the anticipated arrival of his daughter-in-law’s twins ensures the tribal legacy will live on—a man-child to lead the Maori clan. But tragedy strikes when mother and son die in childbirth leaving only a surviving infant daughter. Koro’s own son, Porourangi (Cliff Curtis), next in line to serve as chief, abdicates his role and flees from the village shattered by the loss of his wife and baby. In his anguish, he forsakes Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), to be raised by her grandparents.
Embittered by the choice of his son, and angry at the ill fate that would spare only the female, Koro cannot fogive Pia’s for robbing his hopes of a future leader. Instead he blames her for the start of trouble among his people, who were a once mighty group but now struggle to eek out an existence in an era where the past and present clash almost daily.
Only Nanny Flowers (Vicky Haughton) recognizes the character strength and leadership traits that are budding in the young, abandoned girl. Under the grandmother’s tender care, Pai finds some relief from the grave disappointment she senses in her grandfather as she tries to earn his affection.
Determined to find a successor, Koro gathers the local boys for training in the ancient ways. Relegated to watching on the sidelines, Pai is finally given a chance to prove herself when a pod of whales beach themselves on the sand below the town.
Moving at the gentle pace of a calm ocean tide (for some, that equals slow), Whale Rider looks at the traditions and expectations that guide the lives of Koro and his people and the conflict that surges to the surface when those mores are challenged. Contrasting the cultural past with modern lifestyles, it also explores the qualities of a leader that are inherent regardless of gender or privilege.
Relative to other PG-13 offerings, the film’s content issues are few, but do include some brief strong language, a short reference to drug use, drinking among the locals and some adult and pre-teen smoking. Parents should also note a scene involving childbirth.
Filmed in New Zealand, the movie offers scenic vistas and an introduction to the amazing talents of first-time actress Keisha Castle-Hughes. More importantly, it provides hope that every generation will come with resilient individuals ready and capable of assuming their role as leaders among their peers.Directed by Niki Caro. Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release August 29, 2001. Updated August 22, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Whale Rider rated PG-13? Whale Rider is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief language and a momentary drug reference
Violence: B Father and son argue. Boy hits man with a stick. Man yells at children.
Sexual Content: B Woman is pregnant outside of marriage. Threats are made about male body part falling off. Girls bare back is shown in bathtub.
Language: C Contains at least 6 moderate and 2 mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: C- Adults pre-teen are shown smoking. Women hide signs of their smoking. Adults drink on several occasions. Adults try to cover evidence of illegal drug use.
Miscellaneous Concerns: Mother and baby die during childbirth. Adult treats child harshly and with contempt on several occasions. Character suffers from depression.
Page last updated August 22, 2017
Whale Rider Parents' Guide
The role of chief comes with privileges and many obligations. Why did Porourangi hesitate to take on the responsibility of leading the people? Did Pai believe in her abilities despite the treatment she received from others? Is leadership inherent or hereditary?
Small communities are sometimes plagued with a lack of opportunities and jobs for residents. What issues did the people in Koros village face? How did Porourangi find career success? Are there ways for floundering populations to develop options for their own people?
What expectations or traditions are important to your family? Are there skills or customs you have learned from your parents or grandparents? Will you pass them on to the next generation?
The most recent home video release of Whale Rider movie is August 22, 2017. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes:
Whale Rider release to home video in a 15th Anniversay Edition (Blu-ray/Digital Copy). Bonus features include:
- Audio commentary with director Niki Caro
- “Te Waka: Building The Canoe” Featurette
- “Behind-The-Scenes of Whale Rider” featurette
- Deleted Scenes with optional commentary
- Poster art and photo gallery
Related home video titles:
Following the death of her mother, 10-year-old Amy is sent from New Zealand to live with her father in Canada where she becomes mother to a gaggle of goslings that she must teach in Fly Away Home. Orphaned at a young age, Anne is adopted by a bachelor and his sister who are looking for a boy to help with the farm chores. Instead the siblings end up with a highly imaginative redhead who gets into all kinds of predicaments in Anne of Green Gables.