The first born child in a long line of chiefs, Whina (Miriama McDowell) was meant to be a boy – a boy who was allowed to have a voice; a boy who was able to fight for the rights of his downtrodden people; a boy who would be respected by the simple fact of his gender. Instead Whina was a girl – a girl who became educated; a girl with a voice that demanded she be heard; a girl who commanded the respect of her people; a girl who was willing to fight for what she believed in; and a girl with foresight and courage and compassion.
Whina follows the life of Dame Whina Cooper, the beloved Maori leader who spent her life championing the rights of her people – a girl who became a woman who inspired a nation and who would live to become a legend.
At the time of Whina’s birth more and more Maori families are being forced off their ancestral land and facing lives of destitution and hopelessness. Her earliest memories are of vast areas of Maori land being taken over by white settlers, and of British promises and treaties being repeatedly broken.
As she grows up, Whina understands what’s happening to her people, and she uses her wisdom and organisational skills to help secure the land of her ancestors.
Despite tragic events that forced Whina to flee from her community, she eventually returns, along with her second husband William (Vinnie Bennett), to help save the land and restore cultural pride to her community.
When William dies trying to protect what they were working to build, Whina and her children find themselves homeless and back in the city where Whina soon learns just how precarious life can be for her people. She helps organise a relief association and, over the years, makes the government take notice of its Maori citizens.
In her 80s, suffering from crippling arthritis, Whina (Rena Owen) leads a march from one end of her country to Parliament at the other, inspiring countless people to join her along the way. This peaceful march gains international attention. It eventually grants land rights back to the Maori people and ultimately changes the course of New Zealand history.
Racism; poverty; discrimination; gender inequality; injustice; adultery; death.
Whina has some violence. For example:
- Soldiers shove a Maori girl down and knock over racks of food in an attempt to locate Whina. When found, Whina prepares to attack with her gardening tool. She soon realises that it won’t do any good and is pinned to the ground with her arms behind her back by a soldier.
- A man with a gun angrily enters the jail and says that he won’t be held responsible for anything he does if he finds Whina on his property again.
- Some derogatory statements are made about Whina’s husband not being able to control her when she voices her opinion in a meeting. This causes another argument at home and her husband shouts at her, ‘Stop arguing with me woman!’
- Whina’s entire community turns on her when they find out she is pregnant with another man’s baby and she and William must flee a violent mob while Whina’s sister tells her she must never return.
- Whina teaches her son how to shoot bottles with a gun.
- A building is set on fire on purpose. William tries to rescue the Maori carvings inside but dies in Whina’s arms after attempting to enter the burning building.
- An aggressive and angry mob tries to stop the peaceful protestors from continuing their march to Parliament House. There is some shoving and Whina is knocked to the ground.
There are no sexual references in Whina.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Whina has some use of substances. For example:
- Men, and some women, frequently smoke.
- A group of young people on the march are caught drinking alcohol.
Nudity and sexual activity
Whina has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- A woman delivers a baby, though no nudity is shown.
- Whina kisses William while still married to another man and shortly thereafter finds out she is pregnant with his child. No sex scene is shown but the act is implied.
- A priest talks about some ‘disgusting’ Maori wood carvings that show genitals and the act of giving birth.
There’s no product placement in Whina.
Whina has some coarse language, including ‘damn’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Whina is the heartfelt, biographical story of the life of Dame Whina Cooper. The film features fabulous performances set against the beautiful backdrop of striking New Zealand countryside and contains powerful messages about courage, determination and composure in the face of overwhelming obstacles and opposition. Whina will be best enjoyed by older children due to the mature themes. The film also contains some violence and is therefore not suitable for children under 8 years. We recommend parental guidance for children aged 8-10 years.
The main message from Whina are:
- All choices have consequences.
- If you want things to change you must be willing to make that change happen.
- A woman can be just as powerful as a man.
- Great things are accomplished when people work together.
- The impossible can be achieved if you just persevere.
Values in Whina that you could reinforce with your children include courage, determination, persistence, hope, wisdom, and hard work.
Whina could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the importance of respecting other cultures and communities. In particular the indigenous people of different regions, who have often endured unimaginable hardship and injustice.