This book is a lesson in adaptation. Ihimaera reports in his author’s note that the origin of the book was sparked by two things – a whale swimming up the Hudson River and one of his daughters complaining about females were always portrayed as helpless in movies. From these two events came a remarkable book, part folklore, part survival of a culture, but in the end, all its own. The story of the rise of the new whale rider, Kahu, and how she challenges her male-dominated culture is both real and surreal, and together, the two parts, complete with dialogue among whales, works quite well (though Ihimaera’s grasp of point of view gets shaky here).

And then Niki Caro somehow takes this sketch of a story, this mixture of myth and culture and action, and crafts a stunning movie that, I’ve just learned, you can now watch for free.

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