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One of the most charming and critically acclaimed films of 2003, the New Zealand hit Whale Rider effectively combines Maori tribal tradition with the timely "girl power" of a vibrant new millennium. Despite the discouragement of her gruff and disapproving grandfather (Rawiri Paratene), who nearly disowns her because she is female and therefore traditionally disqualified from tribal leadership, 12-year-old Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is convinced that she is a tribal leader, and sets about to prove it. Rather than inflate this story (from a novel by Witi Ihimaera) with artificial sentiment, writer-director Niki Caro develops very real and turbulent family relationships, intimate and yet torn by a collision between stubborn tradition and changing attitudes. The mythic whale rider--the ultimate symbol of Maori connection to nature--is also the harbinger of Pai's destiny, and the appealing Castle-Hughes gives a luminous, astonishingly powerful performance that won't leave a dry eye in the house.

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Special Features * Eight deleted scenes with optional commentary * Behind-the-scenes featurette * "Te Waka: Building the Canoe" featurette * Art and photo gallery * Whale Rider: The Soundtrack Showcase

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CO02272 Whale Rider DVD (2003/Keisha Castle-Hughes) $14.95