Essay on The Whale Rider - 1176 Words | Bartleby

This paper argues that Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider conforms to the requirements of the epic genre although the author has used it push for progressive ideals among the Maori.

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Through this breakdown pupils can see how the tension is conveyed through the language of film. The atmosphere is reinforced by no background soundtrack.
The speech scene is constructed differently. It is shot in a wider focus as it takes place in a hall rather than amidst a compact group at a table.
We see Pai beginning her speech and becoming increasingly distressed that her grandfather has not come as her invited special guest to the school concert. She is unaware that he has in fact set out to attend the concert, but has been diverted by the beached whales.
We see Pai in mid shot: her isolation on stage makes her look more vulnerable as she struggles to speak.
By intercutting exterior and the interior scenes we are shown the link between tradition and love. Pai is dressed in her traditional costume telling the story of the Whale Rider and offering her view that society should change, while both holding dear the traditions, and deeply respecting the grandfather who has let her down. This she says through her tears. He meanwhile has overcome his fury at what Pai has done to challenge tradition out of his love for her. On the beach the wide shots of him make him as vulnerable and lonely as do the mid shots of her in the hall. The two characters are wrestling between love and tradition, which is made explicit in the framing at the moment the whales are beached and the narrative moves forward to its resolution.


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Whale Rider is set in a small New Zealand coastal village inhabited by Maoris who claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider. For 1,000 years a male heir of the Chief has become leader of the tribe. At the beginning of the film, the wife of Porourangi, the Chief’s eldest son, dies in childbirth along with the male twin she was carrying. The surviving child, a girl, is given the name of Pai, the traditional name given to the male child.
Porourangi is grief stricken and departs for Europe, leaving Pai to be brought up by her grandparents, Koro and Nanny Flowers.
Koro loves Pai, but won’t accept her as Chief. He is convinced that the troubles of the tribe are attributable to Pai aspiring to be leader. He tries unsuccessfully to train the other boys in the tribe for the role.
Far out at sea a school of whales respond to Pai’s calls for guidance. They swim to the village but become beached. Symbolically the tribe will die. Only Pai is willing to make the sacrifice to save her people, and because of this Koro accepts her leadership.
Not an obvious film for the top end of primary and the junior end of secondary! But a closer examination of the film however bears fruit, particularly in looking at gender, race and culture
Here is one method of teaching this film between the ages of 10 and 13. I have outlined a suggested approach and followed this with appropriate Representation analysis tied to the Narrative. Lastly I have provided image analysis tied to key scenes.