may_7.jpgNiki Caro’s Whale Rider made its New York debut this day in 2003, when it screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Previously the movie had been the People’s Choice in Canada, where it made its world premiere at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival and won the Audience World Cinema Award earlier this same year at Sundance. After hitting three of the biggest international film festivals, the New Zealand movie opened to U.S. audiences in limited release on June 6 but continue to be showcased at film festivals around the world until October 2005. Based on the novel by Witi Tame Ihimaera, Whale Rider is an inspiring tale about a pre-teen female, played by the precocious Keisha Castle Hughes, the only living descendent of a legendary tribal chief who traveled to the village on the back of a whale. Tradition dictates a male heir reign over the tribe, which leaves an elderly downtrodden chief and a granddaughter (Hughes) eager to prove she is a worthy descendent.

Factoid: New Zealand native Keisha Castle Hughes made her acting debut in Whale Rider and soon became the talk of the industry. The following year, at the age of 13, the actress became the youngest woman to receive a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.