Only males are allowed to ascend to chiefdom in a Maori tribe in New Zealand. This ancient custom is upset when the child selected to be the next chief dies at birth. However his twin sister, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), survives. At age 12, she enlists the help of her grandmother (Vicky Haughton) and the training of her uncle (Grant Roa) to claim her birthright. But to break with convention, she'll have to do the impossible: win over her ultra-traditional grandfather (Rawiri Paratene).
Niki Caro’s mesmerizing film captures the contemporary mythic story and indomitable spirit of a young teen, who follows the calling to become the first female “Whale Rider” of her tribe - against centuries of male domination within her Maori culture and a domineering grandfather. Her courage and spirit rekindle the spirit of the men and women of her tribe. The shooting is magnificent, score by Lisa Gerard is haunting and the performance by young Keisha Castle-Hughes is extraordinary. An empowering and deeply affecting film.