Movie and album review - <i>Whale Rider</i>

The Whale Rider is a film from New Zealand, and has won many film festival awards in Toronto, Sundance, and Rotterdam. The story's background centers around a Maori family/tribe in which the mythology is that their first ancestor, Paikea, arrived on the back of a whale. Since then, each generation has founded a new chief in their first born son.

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The current generation has a daughter (her twin brother and mother die during childbirth) and the father refuses to have another child with another woman just for the purposes of having a son, much to the dismay of the grandfather. The ensuing film focuses on the troubled relationship between the girl (Pai) and the grandfather, as well as the ripple effect among other family members.

The emotional and introspective aspect of the film is a good break from the long parade of mediocre CGI-explosion-laden movies filling up the summer. Not to mention an excellent acting job by a girl that ranks up there with Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense. Good for the whole family, although the plot and slow atmosphere may not keep the attention of most kids under 18.

The soundtrack is performed by Lisa Gerrard, who was formerly a member of the group Dead Can Dance. Since going solo, she has done film scores for such films as The Insider and Gladiator. The tone of the album fits the film, obviously, so there isn't much room for percussion rhythms or ample singing. Still, the moody orchestration, as well as snippets of tribal chants from the film, evokes the mood of Whale Rider very well. Fans of Lisa Gerrard should pick this one up regardless of whether you've seen the film or not (although I am looking forward to the day when she releases another solo non-film CD, in which case she isn't tied down by the constraints of the film's content). But for others, see the movie before investing in the CD unless you are a film score buff.

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