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Whale Rider Cocktail

Whale Rider Cocktail



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Why yes, there's a flaming shot in it. Let's end summer with a bang.

Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from 101 Tropical Drinks by Kim Haasarud

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Ounce white rum
  • 1 Ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 squeezed-out lime half, filled with an overproof rum, for garnish
  • 1/2 Ounce blue curacao
  • 1/2 Ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 Ounce overproof rum
  • 1/2 Ounce simple syrup
  • 1 Ounce coconut cream

Nutritional Facts

Servings1

Calories Per Serving324

Folate equivalent (total)13µg3%


The return of the native

T hese days, New Zealand is everywhere on celluloid. Its rugged southern mountains are the landscape of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and its volcanic north does a decent impression of 19th-century Japan. Arts ministers have started to brag of a burgeoning local film industry, but one strand has been conspicuous by its absence: Maori film.

While directors Peter Jackson, Jane Campion and the half-Maori Lee Tamahori spent the late-1990s becoming notable Hollywood players, Maori film-making appeared to go into a state of hibernation. Auckland-based director Niki Caro hopes that will change with the release in Britain this week of her debut feature Whale Rider. The film has been lauded on the film festival circuit, taking major audience awards in Rotterdam, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and the Sundance film festival. Critics see it as the most important Maori-themed film to be released since 1994's Once Were Warriors.

But alongside the celebration in New Zealand's film industry, there has also been a measure of soul-searching: why, many wonder, has it taken so long to put Maori stories back on international screens after the early 1990s successes of Once Were Warriors, The Piano and Te Rua?

Maori represent one of the most vigorous and assertive indigenous cultures in the English-speaking world, but their impact on film has been relatively small. Australia's Aboriginal people endured a far more brutal history of oppression and exploitation under European colonialism, and continue to suffer levels of poverty and deprivation beyond anything suffered by the Maori. Their experience is also far more familiar to screen audiences, from Nic Roeg's 1970 classic Walkabout to Rabbit-Proof Fence, Black and White, and The Tracker, all released within the past 18 months.

New Zealand's record by comparison is relatively brief. Once Were Warriors and its neglected 1999 follow-up What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? were both adapted from Alan Duff's novel's portraying the often brutal lives of Maori in New Zealand's endless suburbs. Whale Rider presents a more elegiac picture of a people coming to terms with modernity in a depressed rural setting. To this can be added The Piano, the 1983 "New Zealand western" Utu, and a handful of small projects rarely screened outside of film festivals and specialist cinemas, such as Barry Barclay's Ngati (1987) and Te Rua (1991).

The slender record is perhaps not so surprising given the relative youth of written literary culture among Maori. Witi Ihimaera, author of the 1987 novel on which Whale Rider is based, is credited with being the first writer of Maori fiction, thanks to his 1972 short story collection Pounamu, Pounamu. In 1983 part-Maori novelist Keri Hulme won the Booker prize for The Bone People. By the time that Maori was made an official language of New Zealand in 1987 the cultural flowering was being described as a Maori renaissance. Indigenous fiction has continued to flourish since then but until the release of Whale Rider many feared that Maori film-making was following a different path: since its early 1990s heyday, it appeared to be drifting dangerously close to oblivion.

One paradoxical barrier separating Maori films from the mainstream has always been the strength of Maori culture itself. Barry Barclay's experimental films owe more to Polynesian storytelling traditions than to the plot-based imperatives of conventional cinema, a factor that naturally limits their appeal to mainstream audiences. There is even a passionate debate about whether Maori writers should be writing in English at all, despite the fact it is overwhelmingly the first language of contemporary Maori. Ihimaera acknowledges the problem. "Fiction to me is an alien text," he says. "The Maori word is a singing word, it's more to do with dance and song and theatre." One of the impediments to selling Ihimaera's work internationally has been his insistence on using Maori words in preference to English equivalents, and his refusal to publish glossaries.

"First of all I write for Maori, and for me not to acknowledge that would be entirely wrong. My second target audience is the rest, the non-Maori and international audience," he says. "They are not a priority for me. They're a bonus more than anything. Politically and as a Maori, I draw the line at my valley." The same uncompromising attitude has mothballed the release of the Maori Merchant of Venice, a shoestring production made for NZ$1.8m (£650,000) in 2001 by veteran Maori film-maker Don Selwyn. The film attracted worldwide media attention while it was still in post-production, but has yet to be shown outside a few private screenings. Selwyn acknowledges that the decision to use a 1945 Maori translation of Shakespeare's play, rather than the original English, has significantly limited its appeal. "Primarily we're interested in resurrecting the language, which has historically struggled to exist," he says. "It's important to connect to people, but in some cases you lose the essence of the culture if you try to translate too much."

It is notable that few Maori films have the easy relationship with their heritage seen in Australian Aboriginal films such as Rabbit-Proof Fence or the recent Canadian Inuit film Atanarjuat. Normally Maori culture is presented as something that must be simultaneously defended and fought against in the wider struggle to build up Maori identity. The effect is most dramatic in Once Were Warriors, where the protagonist Jake Heke is shown using a romanticised ideal of martial Maoridom to justify his own petty cruelty and violence but even the more lyrical Whale Rider shows the same tensions.

The film's 11-year-old protagonist, Pai, is the only grandchild of Koro, who is the hereditary leader of his iwi (clan) in the fictionalised, but real, coastal village of Whangara. As in much of Ihimaera's fiction, the decline of traditional Maori culture is a constant theme Koro believes that his descendant is destined to revive his iwi's fortunes in the manner of his legendary forebear Paikea, who rode from Polynesia on the back of a whale.

Fate is not kind to Koro. Pai's mother dies during labour, and a twin brother is stillborn. Pai's father, Porourangi, is so grief-stricken that he resolves not to try for children again, and when he returns to New Zealand after a self-imposed exile in Europe his partner is not Maori, but German. All this would be bad enough for Koro, who worries that he is presiding over the death of his culture and traditions. What is worse is that Pai is a girl, making her incapable of taking on the role of chief within traditionally patriarchal Maori society. Pai's intuitive sense of her destiny, and Koro's struggle between love for his only grandchild and resentment at her perceived part in the death of his iwi, form the heart of the story.

The story is deeply personal for Ihimaera, who has himself come up against patriarchal Maori tradition through his decision to come out through the gay novels The Uncle's Story and Nights in the Gardens of Spain. How much of the dilemma at the heart of Whale Rider grew from Ihimaera's own experiences?

"All of it," he says. "I myself have two daughters. I'm the eldest son of an eldest son. When my first daughter was born I immediately had to face the fact that there had been a break in the traditional male to male eldest leadership. But if we are to maintain our survival in the modern world we cannot retain that tradition."

The idea that Maori artists need to adapt to the modern world seems to be borne out by the contrasting fortunes of Maori film-making against those of New Zealand cinema in general.

In recent years, the modern world has come a lot closer to the New Zealand film industry. The greatest cheerleader has been Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, whose lush Middle Earth landscapes often seem like a trade advert for New Zealand's film locations. Jackson is not alone. Once Were Warriors director Lee Tamahori is now a bankable name, with last year's Bond film Die Another Day to his credit. Jane Campion has built a respectable reputation as an arthouse director in the decade since the release of The Piano. Merata Mita, New Zealand's leading documentary-maker and the only notable Maori film producer, is also married to Geoff Murphy - who directed Utu (1983), about the 1860s land wars between Maori and European settlers, as well as several Hollywood films including the unremarkable sequels to the unremarkable Under Siege and Young Guns. Most recently, New Zealand has successfully sold itself as a cheap, well-serviced site for location filming, fuelling a steady supply of visiting Hollywood glitter for the gossip pages of the local press.

Yet according to Don Selwyn, this talent is yet to feed through into indigenous film. "People come down here primarily because they want to make a film, not because they want to invest in the local industry. We have good locations. It provides jobs, but in terms of building local film-making it doesn't change much." Indeed, the influx of foreign money has caused as much anger as celebration among Maori. Earlier this year upcoming Tom Cruise vehicle The Last Samurai was attacked over claims that it was taking Maori land rights for granted. The film uses the North Island's Mount Taranaki as a cheap shooting substitute for Japan's Mount Fujiyama. Local Maori said that Taranaki's sacred image was being used without their commission, and that film sets had been built over sacred religious and historical sites. Coincidentally, the people objecting to the film are descended from the Maori rebels whose wars against European occupation were portrayed in Geoff Murphy's Utu.

Ultimately, says Selwyn, the problem comes down to a question of money. Once Were Warriors, The Piano and Whale Rider were all largely financed offshore. Whale Rider's NZ$6m (£2.2m) budget was relatively generous by the standards of New Zealand's cottage film industry, but it would hardly buy a weekend of Tom Cruise's time.

"What we need is producers and investors who are prepared to put up the money for these films," he says. "They're great universal stories that have resonance across the world." He believes that technology could also help the industry: after two years on the shelf, his Merchant of Venice is now being prepared for release on multi-language DVD.

Ihimaera is more sceptical: ultimately, he says, Maori stories are too complex to be presented in the simplified medium of cinema, and too important to be stripped down for the sake of international tastes. "If people really want to see what Maori people are like, well I'm sorry but they're not going to see it in two hours in a theatre or in a day reading a book," he says. "We are a much more proud and complex people than that."


Whale Rider

This sentimental crowd-pleaser about a young Maori girl facing her tribal destiny is somewhere between whale music and world music, or maybe a cross between Free Willy and a 90-minute Benetton ad.

It's set in a remote, and beautifully photographed New Zealand coastal town where Maori elder Koro (Rawiri Paratene) is chief of a clan claiming descent from the legendary Whale Rider. When his son's wife dies in childbirth with twins, only the girl, Paikea, survives and her traumatised father runs off to be an artist in Europe without embracing his responsibilities.

Koro brings up his granddaughter himself but inwardly resents the lack of a male descendant and gloweringly refuses to accept the obvious - that Paikea is the natural inheritor of his mantle.

There's a charmingly unaffected performance from non-professional Keisha Castle-Hughes as Paikea, and everything is earnestly and sincerely meant. But there is something very touchy-feely about the whole thing.

Koro instructs the young Maoris in their culture and history, including the warrior tribal dances which are intended to face down their "enemies" - but do they have any enemies? The Anglos who dispossessed them? They don't feature in the movie, and it's not clear exactly how seriously we are supposed to take their fiercely warlike sense of identity in the modern world, or what precisely is at stake if Koro dies without accepting Paikea as his heir.

It all looks like a piece of picturesque, risk-free ethnography for an undemanding teen/family audience.


Related Articles

They can cut it up and have it hauled to a landfill like had to be done in 2016 when a 40-foot whale washed up at a tricky, rocky area of Lower Trestles.

Pearsall said at the end of the day a company was contracted to that will haul away the whale on Saturday.The cost is an estimated at $25,000, though it’s still unclear who will foot the bill.

“We’re moving forward, I don’t have a choice, we need to get this whale off the beach,” he said.

The whale through the day became a spectator spot where a steady stream of people came to take selfies and see the massive carcass first hand.

“Everyone is sad when they see it,” Pearsall said. “When you see how massive this thing is, the universal comment is ‘I just want to see what one looks like in real life.’ The photos don’t do it justice, they are so massive.”

Pearsall said it isn’t a good idea to get close to the carcass.

“We’ve had three spectators vomit. We are advising people to not stand downwind of it, but some people don’t listen,” Pearsall said. “It smells that bad. It’s been dead a while.”

Surfer Jen Garza came across the whale scene when she headed down to the beach to check out the swell.

“It looked like a building down there. It looked so big in person,” she said, agreeing the pictures don’t give a true sense of the whale’s size.

A few surfer friends paddled out, saying after their session their boards were slick from the white, oily film seeping into the ocean from the whale.

“Some of the dudes started talking about sharks – needless to say, I decided to not paddle out,” Garza said. “The whale was coming apart, the intestines were out. I would think the smell of the whale would attract sharks, but who knows.”

Garza said she’s seen photos of dead whales, but never expected one to wash up at her surf break.

“Seeing it in person was crazy,” she said. “My biggest concern is how long is it going to affect the break – am I going to be able to paddle out tomorrow? All of us who surf here, that’s the biggest question mark.”


The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

The right of Witi Ihimaera to be identified as the author of this work in terms of section 96 of the Copyright Act 1994 is hereby asserted.

Digital conversion by Pindar NZ

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of New Zealand.

For Jessica Kiri and Olivia Ata, the best girls in the whole wide world

This story is set in Whangara, on the East Coast of New Zealand, where Paikea is the tipuna ancestor. However, the story, people and events described are entirely fictional and have not been based on any people in Whangara.

He tohu aroha ki a Whangara me nga uri o Paikea.

Thanks also to Julia Keelan, Caroline Haapu and Hekia Parata for their advice and assistance.

the coming of kahutia te rangi

season of the sounding whale

the coming of kahutia te rangi

In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning. The mountains were like a stairway to heaven, and the lush green rainforest was a rippling cloak of many colours. The sky was iridescent, swirling with the patterns of wind and clouds sometimes it reflected the prisms of rainbow or southern aurora. The sea was ever-changing, shimmering and seamless to the sky. This was the well at the bottom of the world and when you looked into it you felt you could see to the end of forever.

This is not to say that the land and sea were without life, without vivacity. The tuatara, the ancient lizard with its third eye, was sentinel here, unblinking in the hot sun, watching and waiting to the east. The moa browsed in giant wingless herds across the southern island. Within the warm stomach of the rainforests, kiwi, weka and the other birds foraged for huhu and similar succulent insects. The forests were loud with the clatter of tree bark, chatter of cicada and murmur of fish-laden streams. Sometimes the forest grew suddenly quiet and in wet bush could be heard the filigree of fairy laughter like a sparkling glissando.

The sea, too, teemed with fish but they also seemed to be waiting. They swam in brilliant shoals, like rains of glittering dust, throughout the greenstone depths — hapuku, manga, kahawai, tamure, moki and warehou — herded by shark or mango ururoa. Sometimes from far off a white shape would be seen flying through the sea but it would only be the serene flight of the tarawhai, the stingray with the spike on its tail.

Waiting. Waiting for the seeding. Waiting for the gifting. Waiting for the blessing to come.

Suddenly, looking up at the surface, the fish began to see the dark bellies of the canoes from the east. The first of the Ancients were coming, journeying from their island kingdom beyond the horizon. Then, after a period, canoes were seen to be returning to the east, making long cracks on the surface sheen. The land and the sea sighed with gladness:

The news is being taken back to the place of the Ancients.

Our blessing will come soon.

In that waiting time, earth and sea began to feel the sharp pangs of need, for an end to the yearning. The forests sent sweet perfumes upon the eastern winds and garlands of pohutukawa upon the eastern tides. The sea flashed continuously with flying fish, leaping high to look beyond the horizon and to be the first to announce the coming in the shallows, the chameleon seahorses pranced at attention. The only reluctant ones were the fairy people who retreated with their silver laughter to caves in glistening waterfalls.

The sun rose and set, rose and set. Then one day, at its noon apex, the first sighting was made. A spume on the horizon. A dark shape rising from the greenstone depths of the ocean, awesome, leviathan, breaching through the surface and hurling itself skyward before falling seaward again. Under water the muted thunder boomed like a great door opening far away, and both sea and land trembled from the impact of that downward plunging.

Suddenly the sea was filled with awesome singing, a song with eternity in it, a song to the land:

You have called and I have come,

bearing the gift of the Gods.

The dark shape rising, rising again. A whale, gigantic. A sea monster. Just as it burst through the sea, a flying fish leaping high in its ecstasy saw water and air streaming like thunderous foam from that noble beast and knew, ah yes, that the time had come. For the sacred sign was on the monster, a swirling moko pattern imprinted on the forehead.

Then the flying fish saw that astride the head, as it broke skyward, was a man. He was wondrous to look upon, the whale rider. The water streamed away from him and he opened his mouth to gasp in the cold air. His eyes were shining with splendour. His body dazzled with diamond spray. Upon that beast he looked like a small tattooed figurine, dark brown, glistening and erect. He seemed, with all his strength, to be pulling the whale into the sky.

Rising, rising. And the man felt the power of the whale as it propelled itself from the sea. He saw far off the land long sought and now found, and he began to fling small spears seaward and landward on his magnificent journey toward the land.

Some of the spears in mid flight turned into pigeons which flew into the forests. Others on landing in the sea changed into eels. And the song in the sea drenched the air with ageless music and land and sea opened themselves to him, the gift long waited for: tangata, man. With great gladness and thanksgiving he, the man, cried out to the land.

Karanga mai, karanga mai, karanga mai.

But there was one spear, so it is told, the last, which, when the whale rider tried to throw it, refused to leave his hand. Try as he might, the spear would not fly.

So the whale rider uttered a prayer over the wooden spear, saying, ‘Let this spear be planted in the years to come, for there are sufficient spear alread
y implanted. Let this be the one to flower when the people are troubled and it is most needed.’

And the spear then leapt from his hands with gladness and soared through the sky. It flew across a thousand years. When it hit the earth it did not change but waited for another hundred and fifty years to pass until it was needed.

The flukes of the whale stroked majestically at the sky.

The Valdes Peninsula, Patagonia. Te Whiti Te Ra. The nursery, the cetacean crib. The giant whales had migrated four months earlier from their Antarctic feeding range to mate, calve and rear their young in two large, calm bays. Their leader, the ancient bull whale, together with the elderly female whales, fluted whalesongs of benign magnificence as they watched over the rest of the herd. In that glassy sea known as the Pathway of the Sun, and under the turning splendour of the stars, they waited until the newly born were strong enough for the long voyages ahead.

Watching, the ancient bull whale was swept up in memories of his own birthing. His mother had been savaged by sharks three months later crying over her in the shallows of Hawaiki, he had been succoured by the golden human who became his master. The human had heard the young whale’s distress and had come into the sea, playing a flute. The sound was plangent and sad as he tried to communicate his oneness with the young whale’s mourning. Quite without the musician knowing it, the melodic patterns of the flute’s phrases imitated the whalesong of comfort. The young whale drew nearer to the human, who cradled him and pressed noses with the orphan in greeting. When the herd travelled onward, the young whale remained and grew under the tutelage of his master.

The bull whale had become handsome and virile, and he had loved his master. In the early days his master would play the flute and the whale would come to the call. Even in his lumbering years of age the whale would remember his adolescence and his master at such moments he would send long, undulating songs of mourning through the lambent water. The elderly females would swim to him hastily, for they loved him, and gently in the dappled warmth they would minister to him.

In a welter of sonics, the ancient bull whale would communicate his nostalgia. And then, in the echoing water, he would hear his master’s flute. Straight away the whale would cease his feeding and try to leap out of the sea, as he used to when he was younger and able to speed toward his master.

As the years had burgeoned the happiness of those days was like a siren call to the ancient bull whale. But his elderly females were fearful for them, that rhapsody of adolescence, that song of the flute, seemed only to signify that their leader was turning his thoughts to the dangerous islands to the south-west.

I suppose that if this story has a beginning it is with Kahu. After all, it was Kahu who was there at the end, and it was Kahu’s intervention which perhaps saved us all. We always knew there would be such a child, but when Kahu was born, well, we were looking the other way, really. We were over at our Koro’s place, me and the boys, having a few drinks and a party, when the phone rang.

‘A girl,’ Koro Apirana said, disgusted. ‘I will have nothing to do with her. She has broken the male line of descent in our tribe.’ He shoved the telephone at our grandmother, Nanny Flowers, saying, ‘Here. It’s your fault. Your female side was too strong.’ Then he pulled on his gumboots and stomped out of the house.

The phone call was from the eldest grandson, my brother Porourangi, who was living in the South Island. His wife, Rehua, had just given birth to the first great-grandchild of our extended family.

‘Hello, dear,’ Nanny Flowers said into the phone. Nanny Flowers was used to Koro Apirana’s growly ways, although she threatened to divorce him every second day, and I could tell that it didn’t bother her if the baby was a girl or a boy. Her lips were quivering with emotion because she had been waiting for the call from Porourangi all month. Her eyes went sort of cross-eyed, as they always did whenever she was overcome with love. ‘What’s that? What did you say?’

We began to laugh, me and the boys, and we yelled to Nanny, ‘Hey! Old lady! You’re supposed to put the phone to your ear so you can hear!’ Nanny disliked telephones most times she was so shaken to hear a voice come out of little holes in the headpiece that she would hold the phone at arm’s length. So I went up to her and put the phone against her head.

Next minute, the tears started rolling down the old lady’s face. ‘What’s that, dear? Oh, the poor thing. Oh the poor thing. Oh the poor thing. Oh. Oh. Oh. Well you tell Rehua that the first is the worst. The others come easier because by then she’ll have the hang of it. Yes, dear. I’ll tell him. Yes, don’t you worry. Yes. All right. Yes, and we love you too.’

She put down the phone. ‘Well, Rawiri,’ she said to me, ‘you and the boys have got a beautiful niece. She must be, because Porourangi said she looks just like me.’ We tried not to laugh, because Nanny was no film star. Then, all of a sudden, she put her hands on her hips and made her face grim and went to the front verandah. Far away, down on the beach, old Koro Apirana was putting his rowboat onto the afternoon sea. Whenever he felt angry he would always get on his rowboat and row out into the middle of the ocean to sulk.

‘Hey,’ Nanny Flowers boomed, ‘you old paka,’ which was the affectionate name she always called our Koro when she wanted him to know she loved him, ‘Hey!’ But he pretended he didn’t hear her, jumped into the rowboat and made out to sea.

Well, that did it. Nanny Flowers got her wild up. ‘Think he can get away from me, does he?’ she muttered. ‘Well he can’t.’

By that time, me and the boys were having hysterics. We crowded onto the verandah and watched as Nanny rushed down the beach, yelling her endearments at Koro Apirana. ‘You come back here, you old paka.’ Well of course he wouldn’t, so next thing, the old lady scooted over to my dinghy. Before I could protest she gunned the outboard motor and roared off after him. All that afternoon they were yelling at each other. Koro Apirana would row to one location after another in the bay, and Nanny Flowers would start the motor and roar after him to growl at him. You have to hand it to the old lady, she had brains all right, picking a rowboat with a motor in it. In the end, old Koro Apirana just gave up. He had no chance, really, because Nanny Flowers simply tied his boat to hers and pulled him back to the beach, whether he liked it or not.

That was eight years ago, when Kahu was born, but I remember it as if it was yesterday, especially the wrangling that went on between our Koro and Nanny Flowers. The trouble was that Koro Apirana could not reconcile his traditional beliefs about Maori leadership and rights with Kahu’s birth. By Maori custom, leadership was hereditary and normally the mantle of mana fell from the eldest son to the eldest son. Except that in this case, there was an eldest daughter.

‘She won’t be any good to me,’ he would mutter. ‘No good. I won’t have anything to do with her. That Porourangi better have a son next time.’

In the end, whenever Nanny Flowers brought the subject up, Koro Apirana would compress his lips, cross his arms, turn his back on her and look elsewhere and not at her.

I was in the kitchen once when this happened. Nanny Flowers was making oven bread on the big table, and Koro Apirana was pretending not to hear her, so she addressed herself to me.

‘Thinks he knows everything,’ she muttered, tossing her head in Koro Apirana’s direction. Bang, went her fists into the dough. ‘The old paka. Thinks he knows all about being a chief.’ Slap, went the bread as she threw it on the table. ‘He isn’t any chief. I’m his chief,’ she emphasised to me and, then, over her shoulder to Koro Apirana, ‘and don’t you forget it either.’ Squelch, went her fingers as she dug them into the dough.

‘Te mea te mea,’ Koro Apirana said. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’

‘Don’t you mock me,’ Nanny Flowers responded. Ouch, went the bread as she flattened it with her arms. She looked at me grimly and sa
id, ‘He knows I’m right. He knows I’m a descendant of old Muriwai, and she was the greatest chief of my tribe. Yeah,’ and, Help, said the dough as she pummelled it and prodded it and stretched it and strangled it, ‘and I should have listened to Mum when she told me not to marry him, the old paka,’ she said, revving up to her usual climactic pronouncement.

From the corner of my eye I could see Koro Apirana mouthing the words sarcastically to himself.

‘But this time,’ said Nanny Flowers, as she throttled the bread with both hands, ‘I’m really going to divorce him.’

Koro Apirana raised his eyebrows, pretending to be unconcerned.

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ he said. ‘Te mea —’

It was then that Nanny Flowers added with a gleam in her eyes, ‘And then I’ll go to live with old Waari over the hill.’

I thought to myself, Uh oh, I better get out of here, because Koro Apirana had been jealous of old Waari, who had been Nanny Flowers’ first boyfriend, for years. No sooner was I out the door when the battle began. You coward, said the dough as I ducked.

But that was nothing compared to the fight that they had when Porourangi rang to say he would like to name the baby Kahu.

‘What’s wrong with Kahu?’ Nanny Flowers asked.

‘I know your tricks,’ Koro Apirana said. ‘You’ve been talking to Porourangi behind my back, egging him on.’

This was true, but Nanny Flowers said, ‘Who, me?’ She fluttered her eyelids at the old man.

‘You think you’re smart,’ Koro Apirana said, ‘but don’t think it’ll work.’

This time when he went out to the sea to sulk he took my dinghy, the one with the motor in it.

‘See if I care,’ Nanny Flowers said. She had been mean enough, earlier in the day, to siphon out half the petrol so that he couldn’t get back. All that afternoon he shouted and waved but she just pretended not to hear. Then Nanny Flowers rowed out to him and said that, really, there was nothing he could do. She had telephoned Porourangi and said that the baby could be named Kahu, after Kahutia Te Rangi.


View as List The Best Environmentally Conscious Movies

Hollywood has made plenty of blockbusters exploiting people's fears of nature, from monster storms to rampant viruses. But the movie industry has also turned out some intense depictions of the damage, real and imagined, that human greed and carelessness can inflict on the planet. Some of these environmentally conscious movies are surprisingly entertaining and excellent—and in some cases, even hopeful. Here are eight dramas, both live-action and animated, that we think are especially worthy examples.

The Lorax (1972)

No, this is not the dreadful 2012 adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic book. This short (less than half an hour) version of Seuss' cautionary tale about unfettered greed and environmental pillaging feels more like a TV episode than a movie. Nevertheless, the old-school animation and voice talent—including Eddie Albert as the narrator—effectively remind us of the book's timeless message: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Chinatown (1973)

Arguably the best movie ever made about Los Angeles, this postwar neo-noir starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway is a detective story and a murder mystery. But through Robert Towne's clear-eyed screenplay, it's also an exploration of the most elemental question imaginable. Namely, who controls the fresh-water supply to our planet's booming populations, and what if those who control that supply are, in the end, nothing more than venal, corrupt businessmen?

Never Cry Wolf (1983)

Based on Farley Mowat's classic book, the film follows Tyler, a Canadian government biologist, as he studies wolves in the Arctic. He’s preparing a report about what he believes is their role in decimating the region's caribou population. Over time, Tyler comes to understand that that the wolves play no part in the caribou's decline. In fact, he learns that the wolf is a far more complex, sociable, and even noble creature than he ever imagined.

Fly Away Home (1997)

Get out your handkerchiefs. This movie, starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin, follows a dad and daughter as they teach migration patterns to geese using ultralight aircraft to guide the birds to safety. See this with your kids, and watch their expressions when the young daughter first takes off in the ultralight, a ragged line of geese following behind. Then brace yourself for the waterworks when it all comes out all right in the end.

Whale Rider (2004)

Whale Rider tells the story of a 12-year-old Maori girl (the riveting Keisha Castle-Hughes) who dreams of becoming chief of her tribe—not for the power the position might hold, but to heal her scattered and hopeless people. A remarkable mix of raw realism and gorgeous, dreamlike scenes, Whale Rider is a poetic love letter to humanity's place in the natural order.

Children of Men (2006)

This dystopian nightmare about a world where humans are no longer able to reproduce was the smartest, scariest, and in many ways the most purely entertaining movie of 2006. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine are brilliant in this white-knuckle thriller, but in a real sense the star of the film is planet Earth. We've abused our home, the movie suggests, and now it's fighting back.

WALL-E (2008)

One of Pixar's best animated movies, WALL-E is set in a future where Earth is nothing but a giant landfill. Horrifically out-of-shape humans live "off-world" on floating space stations, gorging on junk food and sugary drinks. The title character is a thoroughly engaging trash-compacting robot back on Earth who falls in love with another, newer, sleeker machine. Packed with ideas about responsibility, friendship, and the value of hard work, WALL-E is a delight. If you've never seen it, do so.

Avatar (2009)

With a box-office take of nearly $3 billion since its release, Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time—by a long shot. Occasionally overwrought, director James Cameron's film is still a marvelous and beautiful plea for environmental sanity. Not bad for a story about blue-skinned tree-hugging aliens fighting a bunch of planet-plundering corporate stooges.


Whales, Maori culture focus of Fernbank exhibit

The exhibit “Whales: Giants of the Deep” open Saturday at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets to the exhibit are included with admission to the museum $18 adults $17 students/seniors $16 children ages 3-12 free for children ages 2 and under and free for Museum members. Annual family memberships begin at $120.

More sea creatures are on display at Fernbank in the IMAX® film “Journey to the South Pacific,” which takes viewers to the tropical islands of remote West Papua and introduces them to whale sharks, sea turtles, manta rays and other marine life. Value Pass admission includes tickets to the Museum and one IMAX film at $26 for adults, $24 for students/seniors, $22 for children, $8 for Museum members and free for toddlers ages 2 and younger.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta. For tickets and visitor information, 404-929-6400 fernbankmuseum.org.

The sperm whale skeletons on display in the Fernbank Museum’s new exhibit, “Whales: Giants of the Deep,” are not to be considered artifacts, but personalities, said exhibit interpreter and tattooed Māori tribe member Mark Sykes.

These whales are individuals, he said, with names and histories, and they are worthy of respect. The senior citizen female, who was probably 70 when she died, stranded on a beach, is called “Hinewainui,” a tactful term that could be translated “woman of a certain age.” The adolescent male, who lived only to about age 18, is called “Te Hononga,” meaning “traveler.”

“We consider them living things,” said Sykes of the immense skeletons — each is longer than a school bus — that form the centerpiece of the show that opens Saturday.

As the “matauranga” or guardian of the New Zealand objects that make up this show, Sykes accompanies the display on its journeys around the world, certifying that installers treat the exhibits with care, which means they must refrain from bringing food into the hall and from using bad language.

It takes about two weeks to mount the show in each new museum and as the installers work to erect the displays, they begin each morning with a brief prayer, or “karakia,” acknowledging the whales, asking for their protection and reassuring them.

“They are a long way from home, as are we,” said Sykes of himself and fellow New Zealander Pat Stodart.

The Fernbank show is as much about Māori and New Zealand culture as it is about whales and Sykes, with his dark hair, tiki necklace and elaborately tattooed arms, is New Zealand personified.

Sykes comes from the Ngati Porou tribe, located on the east coast of the northern island. His tribe traces its roots to a mythical ancestor named Paikea, who rode to New Zealand on the back of a whale.

The 2002 movie “Whale Rider” used that mythological underpinning for a contemporary New Zealand story and today’s Māori do the same, incorporating traditional image and ceremony into modern life.

At the entrance to the Fernbank exhibit is a ceremonial carved arch, or “Maihi,” topped by the figure of the whale rider. Such a pediment would be found at the entrance to the meeting house in a traditional village.

Beyond this gateway, visitors learn how the whale permeates New Zealand culture, from the Māori who held the whale in reverence — but also used stranded whales for food and tools — and the European settlers, who came to the island to make a fortune in the whaling industry.

They also see an exhibit on the highly endangered right whale, which is part of Georgia’s own whale population. Among the exhibits:

  • Children can climb inside a replica of the heart of a blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived. The replica is the size of a Volkswagen and can hold up to eight kids at a time.
  • A circular theater of sound reproduces the songs made by almost every whale species in the ocean.
  • An arched gallery displays the remarkable weapons, jewelery and other daily objects carved out of whalebone by Māori artisans.
  • Visitors can see an animated film showing a sperm whale's pursuit of a giant squid. The mini-theater incorporates one of the life-sized plastic whale models used in the movie "Whale Rider."

As expected, Fernbank also gives attention to the science of whales.

Visitors can see the fossilized skeletons of a series of prehistoric mammals that were the ancestors of whales.

“Kids don’t realize that whales evolved from land animals that went back to the ocean,” said Becky Facer, programs manager of environmental education at Fernbank. Facer pointed to the skeletons of Ambulocetus (“walking whale”) and Dorudon (“spear tooth”) on display and called attention to the hind feet that would eventually become vestigial organs in their modern descendants.

This exhibit was developed by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and is enriched by its remarkable marine mammal collection.

New Zealand banned whaling in 1964 and New Zealand protesters have been active in the anti-whaling movement, which is also documented in the exhibit. The bloody and grim nature of whaling, ancient and modern, is treated thoroughly, but dispassionately.

The exhibit also examines the strange phenomenon of stranding, which is still not understood. A hopeful note prevails here: A large exhibit shows how humans can use new, inflatable pontoons to help stranded pilot whales back into the ocean.


The Distribution Artist

On Nov. 23, the 3:30 p.m. marketing meeting of Newmarket Films was devoted to the selling strategy for a movie called "The Woodsman." The film, which opens in New York on Dec. 24, stars Kevin Bacon as a pedophile who has just been released from jail. While all kinds of mental illness and acts of extreme violence can be intriguing to audiences, the story of a deeply flawed but sympathetic man who is attracted to very young girls does not lend itself to the sort of film, however worthy, that any studio would be likely to finance or distribute, especially at Christmas.

Which is exactly why Bob Berney, the president of Newmarket Films, is releasing it then. In the last three years, first at IFC Films and, for the last 28 months, at Newmarket, Berney has proved to be remarkably perceptive about the tastes of the moviegoing public. Against all odds, he masterminded the distribution of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which had no stars and was considered too mainstream by most independents, and "The Passion of the Christ," which was rejected by many studios. Those films have earned, respectively, $241.4million and $370.3 million in the United States, making them by a large margin the two most successful independent films of all time. In 2003, Newmarket released "Monster," starring Charlize Theron, who gained 30 pounds and wore heavy makeup to play the murderer Aileen Wuornos. "We opened our serial-killer, lesbian-prostitute film on Christmas Eve in Manhattan," Berney said, linking "Monster" to "The Woodsman." "And it worked." Theron won practically every award invented, including an Oscar, and the movie, which cost roughly $8 million, went on to make $34.5 million. Newmarket Films and its "genius" (as Theron called Berney) were suddenly the biggest success story in the movie business.

But "Monster" falls into a safer, more familiar cinematic genre than "The Woodsman." There are protagonists and subject matters that are dark and complex in an interesting way, but pedophilia is too unsettling for most audiences. "Controversy can help a film," Berney said before the marketing meeting began. "But I do think this is the one subject that has to be explained. Controversy only works when the controversy is not uncomfortable for people. Pedophilia is not an easily discussed subject."

Berney sat down at Newmarket's modern conference table in a windowless room in the company's offices near Rockefeller Center. He is an unusually calm man ("It takes me a long time to get angry," he said, "and, by then, it's usually too late") with a soft voice that has a slight drawl, left over from his childhood in Oklahoma. He is a careful dresser and was wearing a white button-down shirt with a subtly woven pinstripe and navy pants. Although he is 51, he has an ageless face that is hard to read. He's a little opaque, a little blank, which is particularly unusual in the realm of movie moguldom. There is no bombast with Berney, no razzle-dazzle. His effectiveness, unlike Harvey Weinstein's at Miramax, is not tied to personal showmanship. And yet when Berney talks about "Y Tu Mamá También," the Mexican road movie that he released unrated, or "Whale Rider," the New Zealand film that nearly every distributor passed on and he made a success, his eyes take on a certain gleeful ferocity. "Bob is kind of an enigma," Kevin Bacon said, "but I think that's part of why he's effective. I wouldn't want to play poker with him. He's easy to underestimate and very hard to read. Those traits usually mean you win."

The extraordinary success of Berney and Newmarket Films (which is owned by Berney and two British financiers, William Tyrer and Chris Ball, who live in Los Angeles) has not gone unnoticed by the studios. This fall, Tom Freston, co-president of Viacom, which owns Paramount, approached Newmarket about purchasing it. The arrangement would be similar to the original deal between Miramax and Disney. Before that relationship soured, Miramax was the autonomous independent wing of the Disney studios, releasing films like "Pulp Fiction" that were quirkier and more daring than its parent studio's choices. "In the past few years, independent films have become big business," says Sherry Lansing, the outgoing chairwoman of Paramount. "They are not just quality films that you stick in your release schedule like filler. And Tom Freston wants to release movies he wants to see. Most of the time, those films would come from the ranks of the independents, like Newmarket."

The movie business is divided into two general parts: production (the coordination and financing of the creative aspect of filmmaking) and distribution (the coordination and financing involved in getting the film to your neighborhood theater). Unlike movies created by the major studios, so-called independent films generally do not have their own distribution. Small companies like Newmarket, which has 25 employees, are in the business of seeking out finished movies, usually at film festivals, acquiring them and figuring out a way to market them. As an independent distributor, Berney will plan a strategy for a movie's release. He will often pay for the prints of the film, pick which theaters will showcase it and create a marketing campaign. With "The Woodsman," this means promoting Kevin Bacon's courageous acting and playing down the subject of the movie. It's tricky: the word "pedophile" does not appear anywhere in the 38-page press kit, and the poster is a photo of Bacon looking down at a glowing red ball.

"Bob, I just got off the phone," said Bill Thompson, Newmarket's head of sales, as he sat down at the conference table for the meeting, "One theater owner who has agreed to show 'The Woodsman' was upset about the headline in the London paper that read 'Pedophile Film Wins Award.' 'Pedophile' was right in the headline. That's how they described the movie."

Berney stared a second, but his face remained expressionless. "The Woodsman," which was directed by Nicole Kassell, had won the Special Jury Prize at the Deauville Film Festival, and the headline was not something he expected. "Well, the theater owners know what the film is," he said. "They've seen it. The hard part is selling it to the public. We want to get the audiences in there to see an important, well-respected Kevin Bacon film in which he happens to play a sex offender out on probation. Somehow, that sounds better than 'pedophile."'

Berney paused. He is aware that the few movies that deal with pedophilia have not done well at the box office. "L.I.E.," which featured a bravura performance by Brian Cox, lasted just a short time, and in 1998, "Happiness," directed by Todd Solondz, was dropped by its initial distributor, Universal, because of its subject matter. Before he arrived at Newmarket, Berney took over the release of "Happiness," figuring out a way to sell the film from his house in Los Angeles, where he then lived. "I think Bob saved the movie," Solondz says. "He changed the marketing emphasis from sex to the problems of family life. Bob didn't want to change the film -- he tried to re-work the system to fit the movie. Bob is smart, he's tireless, he's inventive and he's also such a pleasant personality, seemingly not saddled with all the neuroses that make life in the movie business long and burdensome."

"Happiness" went on to make a respectable $3.2 million. "But that movie was different," Berney said now. "'The Woodsman' is not provocative in the same way. This movie, to me, is about the drama of being discovered. That's what audiences respond to. Everyone has secrets, everyone has shame."

By now, seven members of the Newmarket staff had gathered around the conference table. Berney has complete faith in the film's worth, and his quiet, steady belief was contagious. "I guess it sounds arrogant," Berney had said, "but I am surprised when audiences don't see what I see in the movies. With 'Passion of the Christ,' people were doubtful. We released it on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday. We put together a plan, which was to go to 2,000 screens right away. That was the riskiest move we ever made as a company. The concern was that the movie might turn out to have a limited appeal and no one would go. If that had happened, weɽ be out of money. But Mel" -- Mel Gibson, who produced and directed the film -- "had always wanted to release it that way, and he liked our plan."

Berney paused again. He looked down at a mock-up of an ad for "The Woodsman." He updates and changes the ads for his movies constantly -- the first "Woodsman" ad in Variety didn't even state the title of the film. "More mystery is always good," he said.

"The Passion of the Christ," like many of Berney's films, was helped by positive word of mouth and a certain notoriety. Since he has never relied on blanket TV advertising, Berney supports his films through alternative methods, like film festivals, special screenings, radio promotions and Internet marketing. As with "Monster," most of the campaign for "The Woodsman" revolves around its star. "Following Bob's plan, I'm doing something connected to this movie every day for three straight months," Kevin Bacon would later tell me. "And that's until release. Who knows what Bob has in store for me if we get nominations for the Golden Globes or Academy Awards?"

"Let's see the trailer," Berney said, as the meeting wound down. Mary Ann Hult, Newmarket's director of publicity, turned on the TV, which sat next to a half-eaten gift basket of cheese and crackers. The coming-attraction spot was, true to Berney's vision, all about Bacon's character having a secret. He has been in jail for something terrible, but he doesn't say what. He's talking about his past in a cloudy manner. He's withdrawn and troubled and finally, compelling. The last line of the trailer -- "I'm not a monster" -- is chilling and provocative.

"It's good," Berney said. He asked to see another version of the same spot. "I would see that movie," he said quietly to himself. There's a sense of romance in the way that Bob Berney talks about seeing his movies for the first time. He usually encounters them at a screening at a festival with other potential distributors. "I'm always looking for something I can't predict," Berney said, over fish and chips at an Irish restaurant around the corner from his office. "It's a little like falling in love -- you couldn't imagine how this film hadn't existed in your life before, and then, it's there."

He had that feeling when he first saw "Y Tu Mamá También" at Cannes. "It reminded me of my college days at the University of Texas at Austin," he said, "and I thought it would also appeal to the Latin audience." And he had the feeling again when he saw "Whale Rider," the story of a Maori girl, played by the 11-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes. Improbably, Hughes was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. The success of "Whale Rider," which cost $4.5 million and went on to make $20.8 million, is perhaps Berney's most impressive triumph. The film is foreign, with no stars and an unfamiliar subject. "When I was a kid," Solondz said, "we called movies like 'Whale Rider' ➭venture films for children.' Bob made that genre appealing again."

"'Whale Rider' was my first acquisition at Newmarket," Berney said, as he ate a French fry. "We came out in June of 2003 and we played all summer. Part of what helped us is 30-screen theaters in New York City like the Empire in Times Square. More screens are good for independent films -- the theaters need films, and the exhibitors leave them in the theaters longer. They don't define movies as independent or studio -- they're just looking for something that works. I found this out with 'Whale Rider' as well as with 'Passion of the Christ.' The most successful screen for 'Passion' was at the Empire in Manhattan. That theater attracted the Latin audience, which was huge for that movie. It did better at the Empire than anywhere else in the country, even though it was widely believed that urban audiences, especially in New York City, wouldn't respond to the film."

When Berney saw "The Woodsman" at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004, he was immediately fascinated. At the time, his life was hectic -- Newmarket was working on the Oscar campaigns for "Monster" and "Whale Rider," and it was also getting ready to release "The Passion of the Christ" on 2,000 screens in a month. "We were panicked," he explained. "The studios have three and four hundred people doing what we did with a staff of 18. It was hard to know if we could even get the prints of 'Passion' necessary for all the screens. Mel wasn't finished with the film, and we were making prints in Rome, Canada and L.A. The exhibitors were betting against us. It was down to the wire and we made it."

Lee Daniels, the producer of "The Woodsman," said: "I knew about Bob Berney and Newmarket and 'The Passion of the Christ.' And I thought, Why is he interested in 'The Woodsman'? I mean, it's not like everyone was bidding for this movie. After our first screening at Sundance, it took two days for the phones to start ringing. In general, people weren't clapping at the end of the film. It's the subject. I guess I'm naïve -- I thought weɽ win Sundance, but we lost, and we left without a distributor. They were only thinking of the marketability. I said, Let's make history, guys -- trust me. They still said no. Except for my Bob."

Daniels related this over lunch in the cafeteria of the United House of Prayer for All People, a religious meeting hall near his offices in Harlem. An openly emotional man with an expressive face and a mane of electric dreadlocks, Daniels had success a couple of years before with "Monster's Ball," his debut as a producer. Halle Berry won an Oscar for her portrayal of a beaten-down Southern woman in that film, and the movie earned several times its production cost of $4 million.

Still, Daniels could not get the studios to invest in "The Woodsman." Eventually, he persuaded Brook Lenfest, a Philadelphia businessman, to invest $1 million, and when he was in Cannes for "Monster's Ball," he met Damon Dash, a co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and the kingpin behind Rocawear, a $300 million-a-year apparel company. "Contrary to popular belief, all black people don't know each other," Daniels said, biting into a piece of fried chicken. "I didn't know Damon from a hole in the wall, but I sent him the script for 'The Woodsman.' I don't know if he even read it, but he wrote me a check for a million dollars."

Dash had been fantasizing about having a movie like "Monster's Ball" at the film festival in Cannes. Dash has a born businessman's innate understanding of longing, his as well as everyone else's. "When I saw the Palais and the red carpet at Cannes, I thought, 'I need that,"' Dash explained. "So a mutual friend of mine and Lee's gave me 'The Woodsman.' When I heard that it was about a pedophile, I was like, Pedophile! That's the scum of the earth, the outcast of the planet. But then I read the script, and I had compassion for him, compassion for something that I despise. And that made me realize that the movie could push past prejudices, and that would validate me in a very big way, take me out of being this urban gangster guy. When they told me that Kevin Bacon was playing the part, I knew heɽ get some serious accolades for being brave. So I cut the check."

A few days after the screening in Sundance, there was a three-way bidding war for "The Woodsman," and Newmarket won. Berney especially responded to Bacon's performance. And the producers of "The Woodsman" were confident that he would find a way to sell their film. "Bob Berney has made art profitable," Dash said, "and that's an art in itself." Berney's calm, steady demeanor may be a result of his up-and-down career path, a roller-coaster existence that has given him perspective. Ever since his college days in Austin, where he worked as a projectionist, Berney has always had jobs in some aspect of the film business. After graduation, he moved to Houston, where he ran a movie theater called the Greenway. "The AMC chain gave me the theater because it was so hard to find. If you really wanted to go there, you still couldn't find it," Berney said as he sat in his small office at Newmarket. On the walls were framed movie posters and photos of Berney with Charlize Theron at the Oscars. "But it ended up working anyway -- we showed 'La Cage Aux Folles' and ɾraserhead,' and no one else in Houston did." That success led him to Dallas, where he ran the Showcase theater and then the Inwood three-screen theater. Berney had an ability to play to small but loyal niches within the larger mainstream community he knew how to draw out the audience. "We played the Gillian Armstrong movie 'My Brilliant Career' for a year at the Showcase, and nobody else in Dallas had that film. The idea was community. At the Inwood, we had a bar. There was music. And I was like an impresario."

In 1982, Berney met his future wife, Jeanne, at the Inwood, when she persuaded him to allow her then-boyfriend's band to play before a screening of the ska classic "Dance Craze." "Running the Inwood gave Bob a real understanding of how the business works," Jeanne said. "He knows the marketplace from all sides. And not many creative executives have that experience."

After three years at the Inwood, Berney went to work in distribution for FilmDallas, a company formed in partnership with New World Films that had early success with "The Trip to Bountiful" in 1985. He saw it as an opportunity to work on a broader canvas. In 1989, the Berneys moved to Los Angeles so Bob could work for New World Films there. Three months later, the company, which was overextended financially, was bought out and changed its focus to television. Berney bounced around for 10 years, working a range of jobs from marketing movies that starred Dolph Lundgren with titles like "Red Scorpion" for Shapiro/Glickenhaus Entertainment, to a stint at Triton Pictures, which distributed art-house foreign movies like "Toto the Hero" before it dissolved.

There were other jobs, too, at other companies that no longer exist. Independent film entities are known for their boom-and-bust sagas. Often, a hit or two makes them flush and then, like a gambler who can't leave the game, they keep playing until they're in debt. If they have steady success, as Good Machine did with directors like Ang Lee in the early 90's, a major studio will often buy them Good Machine joined with USA Films to become Focus Features and is now owned by Universal. They wish to be big, but the independents who stay prosperous, like Lions Gate or now Newmarket, are fiscally conservative.

"The mid-90's was a bleak time," Berney recalled. "There were few theaters that would show independent films. I was always one of the top people at these small companies. And then they would usually fall apart because they didn't have the financing. But even when the companies died, it always seemed better than being trapped in some compartmentalized bigger company." Eventually working out of his house as a freelance marketer, Berney began taking on projects on a film-by-film basis. First, there was "Happiness," and then, in 1999, William Tyrer and Chris Ball (who would become his partners in Newmarket) approached him about a movie they had financed called "Memento." The twist of "Memento" is that the plot runs backward, and the movie was too convoluted and confounding for the major studios to distribute. Berney proposed and was granted a million-dollar budget to market the movie.

"I agreed to do 'Memento,"' Berney recalled, leaning back in his chair. "And around the same time the Independent Film Channel called and asked me to start a distribution division. They wanted me to move to New York, and I agreed. IFC and 'Memento' took off at the same time. The movie made $25.5 million in theaters and cost only $5 million. Then, at IFC, we had 'Greek Wedding,' and of all the films, that was the toughest to get in the theaters. It wasn't viewed as a typical independent film."

As usual, Berney tailored his distribution approach to the film. He suspected "Greek Wedding" would not prosper in a wide release. "We kept it small," he said. "The tendency would be to go as big as possible, and I didn't want to do that." The strategy worked: a film that might have seemed common instead felt special. Berney also enlisted the help of Jeanne, an experienced movie publicist who has worked on many of his movies.

In the summer of 2002, after his rapid success with "Y Tu Mamá También" and "Greek Wedding," Berney abruptly left IFC. "It was a scandal," Berney admitted. "But Newmarket presented a great opportunity." He had finally found a company that would not combust.

As film financiers, Berney's partners at Newmarket had a relationship with Icon, Mel Gibson's production company. They invested in Gibson's version of "Hamlet." When 20th Century Fox, which had rights on the film, decided not to distribute "The Passion of the Christ" in theaters (they found it too controversial), Newmarket was a top contender. Gibson may have also liked that Berney was a practicing Catholic and that his two sons (Sean and Liam, now 15 and 12) had gone to St. Paul the Apostle, a Catholic school in West Los Angeles. "I never told Mel that I was religious," Berney said. "But they're like the C.I.A. over at Icon -- they just know everything."

Unlike most independents, Newmarket has always been careful in its business deals. It has missed opportunities in the interest of caution. It could have invested in the production of "Monster" in its early stages but declined to do so, thereby forfeiting a larger share of the movie's eventual profits. And on "Passion," Newmarket's distribution fee is under 12 percent. Had the company offered to pay for the prints of the film or shoulder the cost of advertising, it could have negotiated a much greater return on its investment. "The Passion of the Christ" may have catapulted Newmarket, but it did not make the company super-rich, which is, all things considered, O.K. with Berney. He has seen indies soar and crash, and heɽ rather be careful than lose everything.

Newmarket is concentrating on consistency. While it has had some flops -- "Stander," an intriguing movie about a South African cop turned bank robber, lasted only one week last summer in New York -- it is not aiming for a high-volume, shoot-the-moon existence. If Newmarket is bought by Paramount in the coming months, it will most likely become Paramount's answer to Fox Searchlight Pictures. Currently the most consistently interesting specialty division of a studio, Fox Searchlight has excelled at acquisitions ("Napoleon Dynamite") and production ("Sideways").

"It all comes down to what choices you make," Berney said. "I know every movie-theater owner in the country. I like that world, and I spend a lot of time talking to them. They spend a lot of their time trying to figure out the audience. And they all want good movies." Berney smiled halfway. His desk was covered with "Woodsman" stuff -- ads and reviews and a copy of the poster with the strange glowing orb. "You can't give up on the audience," he said. "You have to believe they want to see something interesting." On a cold, clear night in early December, Bob and Jeanne Berney made their way into the IFP Gotham Awards, New York's annual celebration of independent films, at Chelsea Piers. They eschewed the red carpet and headed straight into the packed cocktail reception. "You're a god in Texas," screamed Jack Foley, the president of distribution at Focus Features. Like nearly everyone here, Foley has known the Berneys "forever" and embraced Bob in a bear hug. "He knew me at the Inwood," Berney explained. Because Jeanne has worked as a publicist, she greeted almost as many guests as her husband. The couple were like pinballs, bumping into one old friend or business associate (or both) after another.

Although he clearly enjoyed the social whirl, Berney said the main point of the evening was to generate attention for "The Woodsman." The day before, the IFP Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced, and "The Woodsman" garnered three, including best male lead for Bacon. But the National Board of Review had not named the film as one of its Top 10. "Awards and mentions are important," Berney said between hugs. "But most of all, it's important to generate conversation."

Tonight, "The Woodsman" was up for two awards -- Breakthrough Actor and Breakthrough Director. Bacon and his wife, the actress Kyra Sedgwick (who plays his love interest in "The Woodsman"), were each presenting an award, and Newmarket and Lee Daniels had both bought tables. After an hour of cocktails, the crowd slowly moved into the dining room. The "Woodsman" tables were next to the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" table, and Jim Carrey posed for snapshots.

Soon, Daniels arrived, and then Damon Dash and the actor and rapper Mos Def, who was nominated for his subtle performance in "The Woodsman." "Everybody is asking me for money," Dash said. He had, of course, walked the red carpet. He was, as he often is, followed around by his own camera crew. "I'm not really making a movie," he explained. "It's more like a reality show." When he visited the set of "The Woodsman," Dash arrived by helicopter, as always with entourage and film crew in tow, for the most wrenching scene in the film, in which Bacon's character relapses and tries to seduce an 11-year-old girl.

Hours later, Daniels was disappointed -- "The Woodsman" lost to HBO Films' "Maria Full of Grace" in both categories. "How could we lose?" he roared. "I've seen both movies." Berney remained sanguine. "The important thing," he repeated, "is exposure. Kyra and Kevin were presenters, the movie was mentioned all night and we were a big pres-ence." Daniels, who is as grand in his presentation as Berney is modest, stared a second. "You so understand my journey," Daniels said, finally, as he hugged Berney. He was soothed.

After another attempt to leave (more hugs, another "You're a god in Texas"), the Berneys found their car and went back to the Soho House hotel. They live in suburban Bronxville now, Jeanne has taken time off to be with their kids and Bob and Newmarket might soon be bought by a big studio their fortunes have shifted, probably for good. "I'm happy for the success," Berney said a few days ago in his office, "but I've learned that you have to concentrate on the current film, not revel in your past triumphs." He paused. "I've always preferred coming at things from another angle."

Lynn Hirschberg, editor at large for the magazine, writes frequently about the movie business.


Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002)

“Then from the backwash of Time came the voice of the old mother whale. ‘Child, your people await you. Return to the Kingdom of Tane [Maori god of Man] and fulfill your destiny.’ And suddenly the sea was drenched again with a glorious echoing music of the dark shapes sounding.”

Koro is chief of a Maori tribe, a man desperate for a male heir who can lead his people and maintain the sacred traditions in a modern world. Koro’s second son is wayward, gentle but not cut from the stuff of leadership. His first-born Porourangi is a sculptor, more interested in his art than in following in the footsteps of his stern father. As the movie opens, Porourangi’s wife dies bearing twins, and to Koro’s horror the male twin dies while the female lives. “Take her away,” Koro says in disgust, but when his heartbroken son leaves for Europe, Koro and his wife have no choice but to care for their granddaughter. Against Koro’s wishes Porourangi names her Paikea, after the mythical whale rider who was the first great chief among their Maori Ancestors. Koro calls her Pai, and grows to care for her even though his disapproval that she is a girl makes her yearn for his full acceptance.

One of the delights of Whale Rider is the eleven-year old Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Pai in her first role as an actress. It is a remarkable performance. This low-budget film is both charming and revealing. Charming for being a simple story, lovingly told. Revealing as a reminder that in our religiously pluralistic world, old pagan traditions like the Maori’s belief in the Ancients are attractive to a generation starved for transcendence.

Koro gathers the boys of the tribe, and begins to train them in the traditional rituals and myths that have been passed down over so many centuries. Pai has a natural affinity for the tribal lore, but he forbids her involvement. Still, she finds ways to learn the chants, and even gets her kindly but wayward Uncle Rawiri to teach her the warrior art of Maori stick-fighting.

Convinced no male heir will be produced by his disappointing sons, Koro takes the boys of the tribe to a distant lagoon. There he takes the whale’s tooth pendant which he wears as the sign of being chief and throws it into the water. The boy who retrieves it will be his successor, but none can find it on the bottom nestled among the seaweed.

So in his despair, Koro chants, calling for the Ancestors, for their wisdom, for their presence. Pai also chants, but her voice they hear.

Whale Rider has won acclaim at a number of film festivals, including awards at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, and in Toronto and Rotterdam. Based on a novel by the same title, the themes which shape the plot are hardly novel: girl achieves success in a male-dominated world tradition gives way to the pressures of modernity. Still, in Whale Rider we watch them unfold in unpredictable ways. The window of insight into Maori culture and religion is fascinating, and the strong acting makes us care about this dwindling tribe of people in a tiny, decaying village so far away on the shore of New Zealand.

The Maori chants and traditional beliefs that are depicted in Whale Rider are strangely attractive. This is a world that few of us know, and there is something in the eery echos of the other-worldly songs of whales that draw us further in. Add a main character that we grow to love and cry with, and Whale Rider turns out to be a film that can pull the heart-strings and tap into our desire for significance in life that transcends the ordinariness of the moment.

The postmodern generation yearns for spirituality, a transcendent story, and for worship which displays a deep-rooted, imaginative beauty. Does not the Scriptures promise all three: a true intimacy with God, a Story that fulfills all imagining, and spiritual disciplines that stretch back over millennia? Then why aren’t we displaying them? How will we commend our faith to someone like Pai and Koro when they move in next door? And how will we tell our Story so that it’s immeasurable beauty can be heard over the songs of the whales?

Questions

Source

Ransom Fellowship

Ransom Fellowship was founded by Denis and Margie Haack in 1981. Together, they have created a ministry that includes lecturing, writing, teaching, feeding, and encouraging those who want to know more about what it means to be a Christian in the everyday life of the 21st century.


The Whale Rider, p.1

Published by the Penguin Group

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London, WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Penguin Group (NZ), 1987

Copyright © Witi Ihimaera 1987

The right of Witi Ihimaera to be identified as the author of this work in terms of section 96 of the Copyright Act 1994 is hereby asserted.

Digital conversion by Pindar NZ

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of New Zealand.

For Jessica Kiri and Olivia Ata, the best girls in the whole wide world

This story is set in Whangara, on the East Coast of New Zealand, where Paikea is the tipuna ancestor. However, the story, people and events described are entirely fictional and have not been based on any people in Whangara.

He tohu aroha ki a Whangara me nga uri o Paikea.

Thanks also to Julia Keelan, Caroline Haapu and Hekia Parata for their advice and assistance.

the coming of kahutia te rangi

season of the sounding whale

the coming of kahutia te rangi

In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning. The mountains were like a stairway to heaven, and the lush green rainforest was a rippling cloak of many colours. The sky was iridescent, swirling with the patterns of wind and clouds sometimes it reflected the prisms of rainbow or southern aurora. The sea was ever-changing, shimmering and seamless to the sky. This was the well at the bottom of the world and when you looked into it you felt you could see to the end of forever.

This is not to say that the land and sea were without life, without vivacity. The tuatara, the ancient lizard with its third eye, was sentinel here, unblinking in the hot sun, watching and waiting to the east. The moa browsed in giant wingless herds across the southern island. Within the warm stomach of the rainforests, kiwi, weka and the other birds foraged for huhu and similar succulent insects. The forests were loud with the clatter of tree bark, chatter of cicada and murmur of fish-laden streams. Sometimes the forest grew suddenly quiet and in wet bush could be heard the filigree of fairy laughter like a sparkling glissando.

The sea, too, teemed with fish but they also seemed to be waiting. They swam in brilliant shoals, like rains of glittering dust, throughout the greenstone depths — hapuku, manga, kahawai, tamure, moki and warehou — herded by shark or mango ururoa. Sometimes from far off a white shape would be seen flying through the sea but it would only be the serene flight of the tarawhai, the stingray with the spike on its tail.

Waiting. Waiting for the seeding. Waiting for the gifting. Waiting for the blessing to come.

Suddenly, looking up at the surface, the fish began to see the dark bellies of the canoes from the east. The first of the Ancients were coming, journeying from their island kingdom beyond the horizon. Then, after a period, canoes were seen to be returning to the east, making long cracks on the surface sheen. The land and the sea sighed with gladness:

The news is being taken back to the place of the Ancients.

Our blessing will come soon.

In that waiting time, earth and sea began to feel the sharp pangs of need, for an end to the yearning. The forests sent sweet perfumes upon the eastern winds and garlands of pohutukawa upon the eastern tides. The sea flashed continuously with flying fish, leaping high to look beyond the horizon and to be the first to announce the coming in the shallows, the chameleon seahorses pranced at attention. The only reluctant ones were the fairy people who retreated with their silver laughter to caves in glistening waterfalls.

The sun rose and set, rose and set. Then one day, at its noon apex, the first sighting was made. A spume on the horizon. A dark shape rising from the greenstone depths of the ocean, awesome, leviathan, breaching through the surface and hurling itself skyward before falling seaward again. Under water the muted thunder boomed like a great door opening far away, and both sea and land trembled from the impact of that downward plunging.

Suddenly the sea was filled with awesome singing, a song with eternity in it, a song to the land:

You have called and I have come,

bearing the gift of the Gods.

The dark shape rising, rising again. A whale, gigantic. A sea monster. Just as it burst through the sea, a flying fish leaping high in its ecstasy saw water and air streaming like thunderous foam from that noble beast and knew, ah yes, that the time had come. For the sacred sign was on the monster, a swirling moko pattern imprinted on the forehead.

Then the flying fish saw that astride the head, as it broke skyward, was a man. He was wondrous to look upon, the whale rider. The water streamed away from him and he opened his mouth to gasp in the cold air. His eyes were shining with splendour. His body dazzled with diamond spray. Upon that beast he looked like a small tattooed figurine, dark brown, glistening and erect. He seemed, with all his strength, to be pulling the whale into the sky.

Rising, rising. And the man felt the power of the whale as it propelled itself from the sea. He saw far off the land long sought and now found, and he began to fling small spears seaward and landward on his magnificent journey toward the land.

Some of the spears in mid flight turned into pigeons which flew into the forests. Others on landing in the sea changed into eels. And the song in the sea drenched the air with ageless music and land and sea opened themselves to him, the gift long waited for: tangata, man. With great gladness and thanksgiving he, the man, cried out to the land.

Karanga mai, karanga mai, karanga mai.

But there was one spear, so it is told, the last, which, when the whale rider tried to throw it, refused to leave his hand. Try as he might, the spear would not fly.

So the whale rider uttered a prayer over the wooden spear, saying, ‘Let this spear be planted in the years to come, for there are sufficient spear alread
y implanted. Let this be the one to flower when the people are troubled and it is most needed.’

And the spear then leapt from his hands with gladness and soared through the sky. It flew across a thousand years. When it hit the earth it did not change but waited for another hundred and fifty years to pass until it was needed.

The flukes of the whale stroked majestically at the sky.

The Valdes Peninsula, Patagonia. Te Whiti Te Ra. The nursery, the cetacean crib. The giant whales had migrated four months earlier from their Antarctic feeding range to mate, calve and rear their young in two large, calm bays. Their leader, the ancient bull whale, together with the elderly female whales, fluted whalesongs of benign magnificence as they watched over the rest of the herd. In that glassy sea known as the Pathway of the Sun, and under the turning splendour of the stars, they waited until the newly born were strong enough for the long voyages ahead.

Watching, the ancient bull whale was swept up in memories of his own birthing. His mother had been savaged by sharks three months later crying over her in the shallows of Hawaiki, he had been succoured by the golden human who became his master. The human had heard the young whale’s distress and had come into the sea, playing a flute. The sound was plangent and sad as he tried to communicate his oneness with the young whale’s mourning. Quite without the musician knowing it, the melodic patterns of the flute’s phrases imitated the whalesong of comfort. The young whale drew nearer to the human, who cradled him and pressed noses with the orphan in greeting. When the herd travelled onward, the young whale remained and grew under the tutelage of his master.

The bull whale had become handsome and virile, and he had loved his master. In the early days his master would play the flute and the whale would come to the call. Even in his lumbering years of age the whale would remember his adolescence and his master at such moments he would send long, undulating songs of mourning through the lambent water. The elderly females would swim to him hastily, for they loved him, and gently in the dappled warmth they would minister to him.

In a welter of sonics, the ancient bull whale would communicate his nostalgia. And then, in the echoing water, he would hear his master’s flute. Straight away the whale would cease his feeding and try to leap out of the sea, as he used to when he was younger and able to speed toward his master.

As the years had burgeoned the happiness of those days was like a siren call to the ancient bull whale. But his elderly females were fearful for them, that rhapsody of adolescence, that song of the flute, seemed only to signify that their leader was turning his thoughts to the dangerous islands to the south-west.

I suppose that if this story has a beginning it is with Kahu. After all, it was Kahu who was there at the end, and it was Kahu’s intervention which perhaps saved us all. We always knew there would be such a child, but when Kahu was born, well, we were looking the other way, really. We were over at our Koro’s place, me and the boys, having a few drinks and a party, when the phone rang.

‘A girl,’ Koro Apirana said, disgusted. ‘I will have nothing to do with her. She has broken the male line of descent in our tribe.’ He shoved the telephone at our grandmother, Nanny Flowers, saying, ‘Here. It’s your fault. Your female side was too strong.’ Then he pulled on his gumboots and stomped out of the house.

The phone call was from the eldest grandson, my brother Porourangi, who was living in the South Island. His wife, Rehua, had just given birth to the first great-grandchild of our extended family.

‘Hello, dear,’ Nanny Flowers said into the phone. Nanny Flowers was used to Koro Apirana’s growly ways, although she threatened to divorce him every second day, and I could tell that it didn’t bother her if the baby was a girl or a boy. Her lips were quivering with emotion because she had been waiting for the call from Porourangi all month. Her eyes went sort of cross-eyed, as they always did whenever she was overcome with love. ‘What’s that? What did you say?’

We began to laugh, me and the boys, and we yelled to Nanny, ‘Hey! Old lady! You’re supposed to put the phone to your ear so you can hear!’ Nanny disliked telephones most times she was so shaken to hear a voice come out of little holes in the headpiece that she would hold the phone at arm’s length. So I went up to her and put the phone against her head.

Next minute, the tears started rolling down the old lady’s face. ‘What’s that, dear? Oh, the poor thing. Oh the poor thing. Oh the poor thing. Oh. Oh. Oh. Well you tell Rehua that the first is the worst. The others come easier because by then she’ll have the hang of it. Yes, dear. I’ll tell him. Yes, don’t you worry. Yes. All right. Yes, and we love you too.’

She put down the phone. ‘Well, Rawiri,’ she said to me, ‘you and the boys have got a beautiful niece. She must be, because Porourangi said she looks just like me.’ We tried not to laugh, because Nanny was no film star. Then, all of a sudden, she put her hands on her hips and made her face grim and went to the front verandah. Far away, down on the beach, old Koro Apirana was putting his rowboat onto the afternoon sea. Whenever he felt angry he would always get on his rowboat and row out into the middle of the ocean to sulk.

‘Hey,’ Nanny Flowers boomed, ‘you old paka,’ which was the affectionate name she always called our Koro when she wanted him to know she loved him, ‘Hey!’ But he pretended he didn’t hear her, jumped into the rowboat and made out to sea.

Well, that did it. Nanny Flowers got her wild up. ‘Think he can get away from me, does he?’ she muttered. ‘Well he can’t.’

By that time, me and the boys were having hysterics. We crowded onto the verandah and watched as Nanny rushed down the beach, yelling her endearments at Koro Apirana. ‘You come back here, you old paka.’ Well of course he wouldn’t, so next thing, the old lady scooted over to my dinghy. Before I could protest she gunned the outboard motor and roared off after him. All that afternoon they were yelling at each other. Koro Apirana would row to one location after another in the bay, and Nanny Flowers would start the motor and roar after him to growl at him. You have to hand it to the old lady, she had brains all right, picking a rowboat with a motor in it. In the end, old Koro Apirana just gave up. He had no chance, really, because Nanny Flowers simply tied his boat to hers and pulled him back to the beach, whether he liked it or not.

That was eight years ago, when Kahu was born, but I remember it as if it was yesterday, especially the wrangling that went on between our Koro and Nanny Flowers. The trouble was that Koro Apirana could not reconcile his traditional beliefs about Maori leadership and rights with Kahu’s birth. By Maori custom, leadership was hereditary and normally the mantle of mana fell from the eldest son to the eldest son. Except that in this case, there was an eldest daughter.

‘She won’t be any good to me,’ he would mutter. ‘No good. I won’t have anything to do with her. That Porourangi better have a son next time.’

In the end, whenever Nanny Flowers brought the subject up, Koro Apirana would compress his lips, cross his arms, turn his back on her and look elsewhere and not at her.

I was in the kitchen once when this happened. Nanny Flowers was making oven bread on the big table, and Koro Apirana was pretending not to hear her, so she addressed herself to me.

‘Thinks he knows everything,’ she muttered, tossing her head in Koro Apirana’s direction. Bang, went her fists into the dough. ‘The old paka. Thinks he knows all about being a chief.’ Slap, went the bread as she threw it on the table. ‘He isn’t any chief. I’m his chief,’ she emphasised to me and, then, over her shoulder to Koro Apirana, ‘and don’t you forget it either.’ Squelch, went her fingers as she dug them into the dough.

‘Te mea te mea,’ Koro Apirana said. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’

‘Don’t you mock me,’ Nanny Flowers responded. Ouch, went the bread as she flattened it with her arms. She looked at me grimly and sa
id, ‘He knows I’m right. He knows I’m a descendant of old Muriwai, and she was the greatest chief of my tribe. Yeah,’ and, Help, said the dough as she pummelled it and prodded it and stretched it and strangled it, ‘and I should have listened to Mum when she told me not to marry him, the old paka,’ she said, revving up to her usual climactic pronouncement.

From the corner of my eye I could see Koro Apirana mouthing the words sarcastically to himself.

‘But this time,’ said Nanny Flowers, as she throttled the bread with both hands, ‘I’m really going to divorce him.’

Koro Apirana raised his eyebrows, pretending to be unconcerned.

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ he said. ‘Te mea —’

It was then that Nanny Flowers added with a gleam in her eyes, ‘And then I’ll go to live with old Waari over the hill.’

I thought to myself, Uh oh, I better get out of here, because Koro Apirana had been jealous of old Waari, who had been Nanny Flowers’ first boyfriend, for years. No sooner was I out the door when the battle began. You coward, said the dough as I ducked.

But that was nothing compared to the fight that they had when Porourangi rang to say he would like to name the baby Kahu.

‘What’s wrong with Kahu?’ Nanny Flowers asked.

‘I know your tricks,’ Koro Apirana said. ‘You’ve been talking to Porourangi behind my back, egging him on.’

This was true, but Nanny Flowers said, ‘Who, me?’ She fluttered her eyelids at the old man.

‘You think you’re smart,’ Koro Apirana said, ‘but don’t think it’ll work.’

This time when he went out to the sea to sulk he took my dinghy, the one with the motor in it.

‘See if I care,’ Nanny Flowers said. She had been mean enough, earlier in the day, to siphon out half the petrol so that he couldn’t get back. All that afternoon he shouted and waved but she just pretended not to hear. Then Nanny Flowers rowed out to him and said that, really, there was nothing he could do. She had telephoned Porourangi and said that the baby could be named Kahu, after Kahutia Te Rangi.


Watch the video: Whale Rider: 15th Anniversary Edition - Clip 6: My Name is Paikea HD (August 2022).