William Cronon - The Trouble With Wilderness; or, …
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.