New Zealand met New York’s Upper East Side June 2 at Newmarket’s Gotham launch party for “Whale Rider,” the multi-prized festival favorite that nabbed audience awards at Toronto, Sundance, Rotterdam and San Francisco.
Following a warmly received screening at City Cinemas 1 of the family drama about a feisty young girl staking her claim on male-dominated Maori traditions, guests segued to Guastavino, where underwater lighting effects rippled across the vaulted ceilings and displays of Kiwi-land apples and pears and native flax decorated the room. Seven Kahurangi tribal dancers performed a rousing prayer chant, followed by a Maori-style rendition of “Happy Birthday” to cast member Grant Roa. A week away from giving birth back home in Auckland, director Niki Caro missed the premiere, but producer Linda Goldstein Knowlton attended with stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, Cliff Curtis and Rawiri Paratene. Also on hand was Newmarket Films’ prexy Bob Berney plus guests Steve Buscemi, Darren Aronofsky, Jared Harris and Kit Carson.