Great Scenes: Paikea’s speech in ‘Whale Rider’

I’ve been in a dry spell lately, movie-wise. Haven’t seen anything in the theater or on DVD since Tropic Thunder a few weeks ago. And as a result, this blog has been dedicated almost entirely to the Song of the Day (with the occasional aside on the presidential race).

To remedy that and show a little love to my true passion — movies — I’m introducing an occasional series on ‘Great Scenes’ in cinema.

My first choice is a scene from 2002’s Whale Rider, a lovely film about a young girl’s struggle to break out of patriarchal bonds in a Maori tribe in New Zealand. The girl, Paikea, survived as a baby while her twin brother died and as a result has broken the lineage that was supposed to result in a male savior for her people. Nobody is more aware of this imbalance than her grandfather, who loves Paikea dearly but refuses to accept that a girl might be the leader his people need.

In this scene (which is actually two pieces of the same scene spliced together, cutting out a bit of interrupting action), Paikea delivers a speech for a school recital. She dedicates it to her grandfather but realizes as she’s about to start that he didn’t show up.

Now I never cry at movies, but this film, and this scene in particular, chokes me up every time.

In one of the smartest moves in Academy Awards history, Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Actress for her tremendous work in this film. I have little doubt it was due mostly to her work right here.

4 thoughts on “Great Scenes: Paikea’s speech in ‘Whale Rider’

  1. pegclifton says:

    She was wonderful in this scene. I loved this movie, and should watch it again. I’m looking forward to these “great scenes” postings as I have missed your movie “talk”

  2. Amy says:

    Isn’t she a mom by now? Maybe she ought to invite Bristol over for a nice heart to heart. I’m being glib because I haven’t yet watched the scene again. I don’t want to start crying moments before a group of raucous 15 year olds come barreling through my door. This was a very powerful film, one that elicited a fair amount of tears from me when I watched it the first time (though that means far less coming from me than it does coming from Clay).

  3. Clay says:

    I hate the thought that this little girl is indeed a mom just five years later.

  4. pegclifton says:

    Really! That’s hard to believe. I wondered what happened to her.

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