In the beginning... actually, we have here two beginnings. Back in the mists, out of the blue, according to Maori tradition, the tribal founder Paikea rode to shore on the back of a whale. For a thousand years, his male heirs have succeeded him as chief. Yet in the here and now, myths are on the retreat. Chief Koro's grandson arrived stillborn, taking his mother with him, and sending his father abroad for good, leaving his twin sister Pai in the care of her grandparents. Pai grows up 'a bossy one'; yet Koro brusquely refuses to countenance the idea of a female heir. It's a film about belief that doesn't ask you to embrace the tribe's indigenous hocus-pocus so much as credit the strength such people might find in respecting their cultural identity. Koro has the strength of a stone; Pai's fluid free spirits are far more propitious. Their begrudged, teetering relationship is the heart of the film, and acted with suitably impassioned magnetism by Rawiri Paratene and Keisha Castle-Hughes. Around them, writer/director Niki Caro roots her characters in a landscape equal parts mundane and boundless, incorporates tantalising sea photography and Lisa's Gerrard's ambient soundtrack, and lifts off into a sublime, Elysian ending. (Based on a book by Witi Ihimaera.