BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Oct 28th, 2003 •

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Based on the best-selling novel by Witi Ihimaera, this 2003 film from CLASS ACTION director Niki Caro tells the compelling story of a young New Zealand girl’s struggle against ancient Maori tradition to prove that she is worthy to be the next leader of her tribe.

12-year-old Paikea is the survivor of twins born to the son of the tribal leader Koro, her brother having died at birth. Her brother would have automatically been chosen as the next tribal leader, being the first-born son according to Maori tribal lore, Pai however, being female, is denied this honour. Koro, her grandfather, decides to train the young boys of the village to see if another leader can be found. Pai tries to join these sessions but is barred because of her sex. She trains in the old tribal ways anyway, aided by her wayward Uncle. Koro’s search for a new leader proves fruitless and when a school of whales gets stranded on the beach he sees this an omen prophesying the impending doom of the tribe. Pai’s affinity with these creatures finally proves to Koro that she really is destined to be the next leader of his people.

The film is a delight, immersing you in the contemporary Maori world and culture, and Keisha Castle-Hughes is stunning and very moving in her portrayal of Pai. Also noteworthy is Rawiri Paratene’s role as the grumpy grandfather Koro. He clearly loves Pai, shown by his daily escorting her to and from school on the cross bar of his bicycle. She too adores him and is desperate to win his approval, and the strain that her apparent rebellion against tribal traditions places on their relationship is beautifully handled.

There is no over-sentimentality in this film. The island is actually quite a bleak locale, and the troubled relationships between the characters, troubles caused by the conflict between tradition and changing times are realistically dramatised.

Highly recommended.

Special Features:
Director Audio Commentary
Behind The Scenes Featurette
Tribal Featurette
8 Deleted Scenes With Commentary
Cast Screen Tests
Photo Gallery

Paikea: Keisha Castle-Hughes
Koro: Rawiri Paratene
Nanny Flowers: Vicky Haughton
Porourangi: Cliff Curtis
Uncle Rawiri: Grant Roa
Hemi: Mana Taumaunu

Director: Niki Caro

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