Whale Rider is a Maori family drama film directed by Niki Caro, based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera. The film stars Keisha Castle-Hughes as Kahu Paikea Apirana (Pai), an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal Maori tribe. Pai believes she is destined to be the new chief, but her grandfather Koro believes that this is a role reserved for males only.
On the east coast of Aotearoa, the Whangara people’s presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea's direct descendants. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny.
Pacific Islanders in Communications acquired Whale Rider in 2005 for a national PBS broadcast. It was reported to be the highest watched film on PBS Sunday night at the time. The airing brought more recognition and respect to Pacific Islander films.