Taken from the homonymous novel by Witi Ihimaera and directed bu Niki caro in 2002 , The Whale Rider is the story of Paikea Apirana, Pai, a Maori 12-year-old girl. Her mother died on her bedchild (= alla sua nascita) with her twin brother (= fratello gemello). By tradition, the leader of her tribe should be the first-born son (= il primo maschio) so Pai technically cannot inherit the leadership.
The leader of the tribe, Koro, Pai’s grandfather, is angry at losing his first grandson and Paikea decides to leave with her father. But she cannot leave the sea as the whale (= balena) seems to be calling her back, and returns home. Pai’s father does not want to assume traditional leadership (= commando) and moves to Germany to follow a career as an artist. On the contrary, Pai is interested in the leadership, and learns traditional songs and dances. Koro decides to form a cultural school for the village boys, hoping to find a new leader. He teaches how to use a taiaha , afighting stick, (= un bastone da combattimento) traditionally reserved for males (= maschi) . However, Pai secretly learns from one of his uncles and secretly follows Koro’s lessons. Koro gets angry when she discovers Pai following his lesson and when she wins her taiaha fight. Besides, none of the boys succeed in the traditional recovering (= ritrovamento) of the rei puta, the whale tooth (= il dente di balena), that would prove one of them worthy of becoming leader (= degno di diventare un leader).
Koro in despair calls out the whales; also Pai calls them to help him and the whales hear her.
One day, while Koro is going to meet Pai at a concert of Māori chants (= canti) , notices that numerous whales are beached (= sono spiaggiate) near Pai’s home. Nobody can make them go back into the water and Koro sees it as a sign of his failure (= un segno di fallimento). Koro is walking away when Pai climbs onto the back of the largest whale and persuades it to go back into the ocean. When she goes out of sea, a woman of the village shows Koro the whale tooth which Pai had previously found and Koro declares her the leader. The story ends with the whole family on the beach together.