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From Process to Product: Intercultural Collaboration in the Making of Whale Rider

Pitts, Virginia (2010) From Process to Product: Intercultural Collaboration in the Making of Whale Rider. In: Impure Cinema: Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Approaches to World Cinema. (Unpublished) (KAR id:26340)

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Whale Rider (2003), adapted for screen by Niki Caro from Witi Ihimaera’s novel, tells the story of a M?ori girl who struggles to overturn patriarchal resistance towards her future role as a leader. Following critical acclaim and an Oscar win for Keisha Castle-Hughes, the film’s considerable commercial success sharpened local debate already sparked by the P?keh? status of its director . Dialectical conceptions of cultural difference underpin much of that commentary, as do assumptions about power relations on set and positivist dismissals of the indigenous spirituality guiding the production. This paper seeks to expand the scope of that debate by exploring the very nature of the intercultural collaborative processes established between Caro, Ihimaera, Taumaunu (Cultural Advisor), and the elders of Whangara (home of the Whale Rider myth).

While New Zealand’s cinematic history proves that intercultural collaboration may replicate processes of colonial assimilation, my interviews with the two key collaborators on Whale Rider reveal processes characterised by a sophisticated awareness of what distinguishes and what connects peoples from different cultures, extremely high levels of mutual respect, and the democratization of traditional screen production culture in accordance with M?ori spirituality and protocols. This, in turn, triggers a higher degree of shared authorship than is the norm in mainstream cinema production. The resulting film demonstrates the potential for indigenous mythology to address contemporary concerns, and interweaves the respective naturalistic and symbolic registers of New Zealand cinema and Maori storytelling paradigms without retreating in to exoticism. I thus argue that the ‘dialogic’ mode of intercultural collaboration undertaken in the making of Whale Rider, in which differentiation is understood as ‘simultaneous resemblance and difference’ , manifests in a specific permutation of aesthetically hybrid cinema that carves out a constitutive ‘third space’ in the New Zealand national canon.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: intercultural cinema, creative process, indigenous myth, hybrid cinema, national cinema
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: V.T. Pitts
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2011 15:16 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 12:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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