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“Unease “is not the only style of New Zealand cinema, and get rid of” unease “can also be recognized by the industry
The New Zealand film Renaissance began in 1977 with the native New Zealand film “Sleeping dog”(Botes, 2008). For all that it seemed to offer a fresh and exciting direction, Sleeping Dogs centred, according to the film’s thesis, around themes that would recur again and again in local films — the insecurity of isolation, a dark view of authority, and “men alone” in moody landscapes beset by anxiety.This kind of movie is called “Unease” and Cinema of Unease was warmly received internationally.

From this time on, the significance of ‘unease’ as a central trope became a feature in New Zealand films. “Unease “appears frequently In numerous films, such as in the movie ‘Perfect Creature’, when the woman has killed man who kidnapped her, suddenly realizes she has fell in love with him, then, she lives and makes love with the illusion of the man everyday; in the movie ‘The Piano’, in order to get back her piano, the heroine makes love with a stranger while leaving her daughter outside alone; in the movie ‘Runaway’, a man prefer to climb a snow mountain rather than has been caught by the police. and one cannot help but be struck by the persistence of fear, repression and madness as themes in the New Zealand cinematic imagination.Although the “Unease”film has been recognized by the industry in New Zealand and it has even become a trend, influencing New Zealand directors’ thoughts on film making,more and more people blind to the cultural diversity that had come to distinguish contemporary.
It seems to me that the New Zealand film is not what Sam Neill said in “Cinema of UneaseFilm” (Excerpts? that the style of all mainstream films is dark and disturbing.

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So I chose the 2003 New Zealand native film “whale rider ” and used this heartwarming film to prove that unease “is not the only style of New Zealand cinema, and get rid of” unease “can also be recognized by the industry.

“Whale rider” was released on January 10, 2003 in New Zealand, followed by Australia, Germany and other 50 countries. Rotten tomatoes critics gave a 91% freshness rating and viewers an 88% affection rating. IMDb score of 7.6. It had the honour to get 2003 Bafta Awards, Best Children’s Feature Film, 2004 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (United States),Nominated for Best Family Film and so on so forth.

The movie Whale Rider tells the story of a Matriarch of a Maori tribe.

An ancient legend about their origins has been passed on in the Maori people living on the coast of New Zealand: a long time ago, the ancestor of Maori rode on top of a whale leading his people to New Zealand. The tribe has stipulated since then that only the first-born son of the chief can inherit the leadership. Pai’s grandfather, Kolo, is the leader of a small modern Maori tribe in New Zealand. But unfortunately, Pai’s twin brother (the successor), as well as her mother, dies in childbirth. Because of the death of his wife and first-born son, as well as the overwhelming pressure from Kolo who has become ruthless for safeguarding the tradition, Pai’s father eventually leaves Pai with her grandparents and runs away from home. As much as Kolo adores Pai, he believes that the one who inherits the leadership should only be the first-born son of this family. When Pai is 12 years old, Kolo builds a cultural school hoping to find a new leader. Although this school is traditionally reserved for males, Pai has been secretly learning skills that a leader should be equipped, and saving sacred whales. At last, Kolo has realized his mistakes and come around making Pai the new leader of the tribe.

Based on the outline of the movie, we can classify it to normal feature film, given the simple content and lack of horror plot. This film gently unfolds the story of a Maori family in front of the audience. The film starts with a quarrel. Pai’s twin brother and her mother die in childbirth, Kolo is so inconsiderate of the grief of Pai’s father that he is forcing him to remarry. Pai’s father, therefore, left his family with the vacancy of the successor of the Maori tribe. Pai, on the other hand, has been proving to her grandfather that female could also be the leader during Kolo’s search for the tribal heirs, but infuriates him instead. The conflict has been escalating since the beginning of the film, but the film has caused no discomfort to the audience.

This film about family and society does not need any unease metaphors or horror storylines. From the perspective of Pai, this film portrays an indigenous group living in modern Western society striving to continue their tradition while absorbing the mainstream culture. The audience can also get the inherent meaning of the story in a soothing pace. But let’s suppose that the film does not start this way but with the tense metaphor and horror that is typical in New Zealand movies, the movie could possibly be like this: Kolo imprisons the father since he is leaving home and finds him a new wife who can give birth to a baby boy; Or Kolo murders Pai given his hatred to Pai’s father; Or Pai’s uncle cannot inherit the leadership since he is not the first-born, therefore he becomes resentful and has been poisoning his family. . .
To begin with, a film like this will definitely confine its audience, since it’s not for children. Even, this plot may cause discomfort and resentment to New Zealand aborigines. I have no idea whether the story can cater for the adults, but what I do know is that it certainly won’t be reviewed as “this is an inspiring movie”, and it is even less likely to win the Best Children’s Film Award.

Although this film does not involve any “unease” feathers of New Zealand native film mentioned in the “Cinema of Unease Film” (Excerpts), it does concern the cultural and social relationship of New Zealand.

The legend of Maori ancestor, Paikea, in Maori culture is repeatedly mentioned; only native actors in New Zealand were casted for this movie; the New Zealand cultural characteristics, Maori houses and Maori totem carvings, have appeared in the movie. The traditional war martial, “Tayaha” that Pai learns from her uncle, the Maori warship that Pai takes at the end of the movie, and the HAKA that residents dance when sending Pai off are all indispensable to the film.

At the same time, the film also manifests the contradiction between traditional culture and emerging culture, the difficulty of traditional cultural changes in the context of the new Western society, and the rise of feminist rights with centuries of deep-rooted gender discrimination.

All in all, New Zealand movies are all not as dark and depressed as Sam said in “Cinema of Unease Film” (Excerpts), instead, New Zealand movies are looking for their own style. Although “uneasy” and “terror” are still representative of New Zealand movies, it will only limit local directors’ thinking and confine the development of the local film industry, if this feature becomes a must-have trend. Whale Rider proves to us New Zealand films can be very well-produced/well-reviewed without “uneasy” and “horror” elements.

Botes, C. (2008, August 21). A general perspective. Web log post. Retrieved from
Mary,R.;James F. ( 2011,July 21). LEARNING GUIDE TO:WHALE RIDER. Retrieved from, B.(2008, October 19). A Perspective.Web log post. Retrieved from

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