According to legends among the Whangara people, Paikea rode on the back of a whale, leading his people to New Zealand, where the tribe still resides today. Modern times, though, are difficult on such an old tribe. The chief is always the first born son. However, the first born son of the existing chief, Koro, has only one living child — a girl, Pai (acutally Paikea, after the ancient whale rider). Koro refuses to see that Pai could be a wise leader, simply because she’s a girl.
I must confess that part of the reason I wanted to see this film was because I love whales, and was hoping for gratuitous whale footage, and I got it (though it wasn’t really gratuitous). Whale Rider is an excellent story, and one that can be applied to so many different areas. Women continue to struggle to prove themselves in every profession, including that of tribal chief. And I must admit, that even after the film was over, I was still angry with Koro. He represents the worst obstacles that so many women have had to overcome just to do what they know in their hearts they are meant to do.
[Odd note — IMDB says that if I liked Whale Rider, I might also like The Godfather Trilogy. Hmmm. Methinks there’s something seriously wrong with their recommendation system.]