Despite never having acted before, KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES is this summer’s most enchanting child movie star.

Words: Ruth Hedges

eisha ('astle-llughes is the kind of girl you fall

in [me with straight away - it's instant from

the second her open. enigmatic face appears on screen. Playing a girl from a small Maori community who believe theinsclyes to descend from l’aikea. the mythical Whale Rider. she struggles against the notion that only boys can continue the line. ller presence is as natural as the sea and wind about her. and has that spirited. pure quality that adults can only look at and wonder. So it isn‘t hard to see why Keisha was spotted by casting director Diana Rowan. also I'Cspoltsiblc for discoyering Anna l’aquin (The Piano).

‘She was walking round the school and catne tip to me in class and asked if I was of Maori dcsccnl.‘ says Keisha. 'l said yes. and she asked me if I could ride a bike. and I said yes. and by this stage I was quite intimidated by her becatise I didn’t know who she was. Then she asked me if I could swim and I couldn't. but I still said yes.‘ says Keisha. who was I l at the time. It’s the kind of canniness that reflects in the braye little character on screen.

l’ai’s grandfather is the Village chief and it is a curse to him that l’ai's twin brother rather than l’ai died at birth. He believes it is the end of their connnunity. who are intrinsically linked to the sea and the rey'ered whale. So he starts up classes in traditional Maori song. lighting and ritual to try to discoyer the next chief: l’ai. of course. isn‘t invited. The struggle is classic coming of age/culture-clash stuff. Proying

94 THE LIST 37-17 J”: .:\\‘3

‘I always wanted to be an actress because I saw these ladies in beautiful dresses and that’s why I wanted to act - not because of the acting’

Girl power, the Maori way

yourself against the older generation. following your true calling it's the theme that drove Km. Bil/y [fl/in! and [fem] it like Berk/mm but ll'lm/c RUIN” is neither so bleak nor triumphalist as these films. Something about the landscape and the idea of mythic descent inspires a quiet and understated picture. But it's also something about Keisha. She lt\‘c‘s the part. and admits that it came naturally. Had she ever acted before‘.’ ‘.\'o. not men a school play but I always wanted to act. I always wanted to be an actress because I saw these ladies in beautiful dresses and that’s why I wanted to act not because of the acting.‘ she says.

Sadly for her. there are no big dresses in li'lzule Rider. but she does get to clamber on top of a big barnacled whale. In one scene l’ai performs a speech at a school concert. dedicated to her grainltather. who has kicked her out of the liouse. l’ai stands on her own on the edge of the stage and scans the room searching for him. She sees an empty seat. (‘arry'ing on but with the tremble and hard fought-back tears of a child feeling utter rejection. Keisha makes her speech. Only the hardest of hearts won't break. ‘They were real tears. I just put myself in l’ai‘s position and thought. how would I feel‘.’ It took just the one lake.‘ says Keisha. Worry not. though. Without giy'ing too much of the plot away. the tears dry up and things ey'entually' do come right.

The film. although featuring line performances from the supporting cast. really does live and breathe with Keisha. but she's not planning to [11in into a life of beautiful dresses or whalesjUst yet. 'At the moment school's my number one priority and my options are open. I‘ll just take things as they come and if anything else comes up I‘m happy to haye a look at it.' she says with the relaxed sound of a pro.

Whale Rider opens Fri 11 Jul on selected release. See review page 29.


lGds From Fame

Potted history of some of anemia '3 biggest little stars

Name: : w

Born: "his" fsz"'..:‘.i First role: -\ "

Career high: fa" i .m: 31-12

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Name: \J<:zl'<: l ostor

Born: HM". l (>3; Amoeba

First role: Atléil I? m <:<:""ri».:'<“zi f», ilti§I;)t()lX}'il)l()f31!f.l!‘:.l"~ Summons, 4‘ E‘s/Nut:sz f:- Drruo.’ '19/3"). («first ‘-'~

Career high: (Elam;- fStaWw; H SIRE/1m of the? 1 (1mm ‘iiTa‘. Turned out: Not liélfi at {1- VJ f;()tttt:<)'t(: startixt ‘.'.’l"r\"(] :lf‘:

at theagjtmtl)

Name: Dana B';t’l‘:,‘

Born: 1€)f;-’1.Bari‘-<;-<;,

First role: 8*”) Cashew I". Kw: L(x1r:trsal<05; “.9682 ago/t 'w‘. Career High: SH: étl/)'.":

Went on to: A W; 'l/:I‘.‘J‘:‘;t‘. jot)";

2'1 l (flirt/rt

Name: Anna Parttit'i

Born: 1482. ‘. J arm/:9, Canada First role: Fora McGratr‘ m The P181?!) "‘94,. age”) 9

Career high: ‘v‘Jtrxo N; an Oscar fO' Best SUMXLF’JY‘g Actress ifl amne tum Cream; acceptance speech of OISDellC‘. Neart; mnerxentrtated cf? Stage Turned out: BQCEHCIOUS

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