The Comingof Age Girl in Contemporary New Zealand Cinema mary m wiles

The storyteller takes what [she/he] tells from experience — [her/his] own or that reported by others. And [she/he] in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to [the] tale. ... In every case the storyteller is a [wo]man who has counsel for [her/his] reader . . .

Walter benjamin, ''the storyteller," in Illuminations

Filmmaker Vincent Ward remarks, ''Childhood is a common theme in New Zealand writing. Perhaps this is due to the relative newness of the national identity, and 'rites of passage' stories reflect this coming of age'' (70). This essay explores the parameters of the girl's coming-of-age story in contemporary New Zealand film, beginning with an analysis of Ward's Vigil (1984) and then turning to Niki Caro's recent Whale Rider/Te kaieke tohora (2002). In both films, the landscape serves as a correlative to the emotional states of its adolescent inhabitants and is transformed through their capacity to re-envision it—and themselves—through storytelling, fantasy, and role-playing. These fantasies of girlhood are also narratives of nation: each film reworks the dominant themes of New Zealand nationhood, replacing the active male pioneer with the imaginative, tenacious female storyteller whose coming-of-age can be understood as the allegorical re-envisioning of national evolution (Molloy, 154).1 In each film, haunting images of a primeval world elicit our nostalgia for an innocent, pure state that becomes met-onymically associated with girlhood; in each film, the residual effect of colonial dominion is allegorically resonant in an experience of traumatic loss that transforms the girl, her family, and/or her community; in each film, the girl's personal evolution is perceived to be at once the result of this primal loss and its resolution.

The first New Zealand film selected to screen in competition at Cannes, Vigil was hailed at the time of its release as a sign of New Zealand film's coming-of-age. Vigil opens as a narrative of loss. Residing in the windswept hills of the remote Taranaki valley, 12-year-old Lisa "Toss" Peers watches from the kitchen window as her father, Justin, sets ablaze some pyres of stillborn lambs. Entranced by the fire, Toss anticipates the possibility of an adventure with her father and slips past her mother to join him as he trudges off toward the hills. Inspired by filmmaker Alexander Dovzhenko's portrait of Russian peasantry in Earth (1930), Ward silhouettes father and daughter against the diagonal horizon line formed where the sharp incline of the Tara-naki hills meets an unremitting sky. During their ascent, a menacing windstorm suddenly sweeps through the valley, blinding Toss, smothering her cries, and separating her from her father and his flock. The sudden separation and moment of blind panic during the storm provide a portent of imminent tragedy. As the sky clears, they discover a lamb that has become separated from the flock and pinioned below in a steep mountain crevice. As Toss watches from the opposite hill, her father slides down to retrieve it. There is an uneasy hesitation, then the sound of rocks giving way; suddenly, Justin slips and plummets to his death below. Toss stands immobilized as his final cry echoes through the hills. This primal loss profoundly affects the girl's story and transforms the life of her family, composed of her mother, Liz, and grandfather, Birdie. The film chronicles a complex coming-of-age story which is told primarily from Toss' highly imaginative point of view. In her movement toward puberty, her father's fall becomes a correlative to her own emotional state as she teeters on the threshold between an immobilizing fear of utter loss of control and the pleasure of self-possession.

Following the funeral, one senses the peculiar quietude of the farmhouse inhabited by Toss and her mother, the sparsely furnished rooms of which open out to a remorseless sky that seems to offer no solace. The empty home as locus of trauma serves as the allegorical site for a conception of the nation that, as feminist theorist Maureen Molloy observes, "places women, hearth and home at the center or foundation and, at the same time, on the periphery of the civil state'' (160). She bases her observation on Sigmund Freud's discussion of the heimlich (homely)/heimisch (native), terms that in German can convey security, familiarity, and intimacy, or, inversely, the gruesome, ghostly, and occult.2 This dual sense of the heimlich, Molloy argues, "recapitulates the immanence of the unhomely in the home for women'' (160). In her provocative analysis of New Zealand films released in the 1990s, Mol-

loy revisits the Freudian uncanny to substantiate her argument that ''the uncanny is the feminine, the doubling, merging, unbounded, archaic unpredictability neatly encapsulating not the home, nor simply the mother's body, but the problematic that the female presents to the Western notion of the unified bounded self'' (155). Exploring its implications in the representation of the nation, she further maintains that ''the lack of boundaries, surety, and the return of the archaic make [the uncanny] also a powerful expression of the postcolonial nation'' (160). Molloy's association of the uncanny with the feminine enables us to explore the unique configuration of the coming-of-age girl within the context of the postcolonial nation.

The mirroring that the film establishes between Toss and her mother invokes the doubling that is associated with uncanny feelings (Freud, 234). Grief-stricken, Liz shares an unspoken understanding with Toss. She quietly remarks that she wants her daughter's hair to be tied back in ''shiny, smooth, clear sharp lines'' in imitation of, but different from, her own unkempt, wavy strands. Liz quietly sews a ballet tutu for her by the light of an open window and later, one afternoon, dons tights to model graceful dance movements for her daughter when they practice side by side in the barn. Toss is easily distracted from ballet, however, and races outside dressed in her tutu and knee-high rubber galoshes to see one of Birdie's miraculous new mechanical contraptions put in motion. Throughout the film, Toss moves back and forth between the centrality of her mother's home and the periphery of the remote Taranaki hills, as easily as she shifts between the names ''Lisa,'' a derivative of her mother's name, ''Elizabeth,'' and ''Toss,'' a nickname connoting her tousled, cropped hair. Mirroring Toss' bodily oscillation, Liz' loyalty wavers throughout the film between a determined will to preserve her home in the rural hills and the desire to move to an urban location that offers the allure of Western metropolitan culture.

The structure of doubling that characterizes Toss' relation with her mother also defines her evolving relation to Ethan, a poacher whom Birdie hires to help out on the farm after the funeral. Toss first spots Ethan through the lens of her binoculars in the moments just before her father's fall, watching him move stealthily up an embankment to retrieve two lambs that have gone astray, just as her father is descending the embankment. It is thus through Toss' point of view that the spectator is introduced to Ethan, who serves as Justin's ''double,'' an uncanny occurrence that Freud claims happens when there is a ''repetition of the same features or character-traits or vicissitudes'' (234). In this scene, the phenomenon of ''the double'' serves as ''an uncanny harbinger of death,'' foreshadowing Justin's fall; however, as Freud notes, ''the double'' can serve conversely as an ''assurance of immor-

tality,'' or as Otto Rank observes, ''an energetic denial of the power of death'' (in Freud, 235). Through her binoculars, Toss isolates the uncanny space that repeats the nonview of her father's traumatic disappearance, which is marked by the hollow repetition of his echoing voice through the void. Ward uses the binocular lens to distinguish Toss' perspective from the adult world around her, and sound is also especially significant in creating the adolescent girl's perspective. Ward states that he wanted his character to hear the world, ''muffled, unclear, then suddenly rent by the scream of a hawk or the thud of a knife into wood, sharp and lucid, reverberating down the valley like the echoes at Chartres'' (72).

Instances of animistic thinking emerge repeatedly within the film to efface the boundaries between what is human and what is mechanical (Freud, 240). The family tractor is almost an automaton, fleeing across an open field as though attempting to show its human observers that it possesses a mind of its own and that it can, according to Birdie, ''send out little miniatures of itself that hit your eyeball and explode—flash.'' Such occurrences in the film conform to what Homi Bhabha calls moments of the ''cultural uncanny,'' which arise when cultural ''non-sense'' surfaces within a scientific, rationalist economy (136-137). This interrelation between ''scientific rationalism and archaic 'belief,''' Molloy argues, provides Bhabha with the means to analyze the cultural dissonance produced in postcolonial nations (157). It is the girl's point of view that in Vigil becomes the locus of archaic, primitive beliefs, including the belief in the omnipotence of thoughts and in the magic that ensues (Freud, 240). Toss believes that she may have made Ethan appear by magic in her binocular lens and thus attributes certain superhuman powers to him. She recounts to her mother that Ethan possesses magic powers, like a prince emerging from what Gina Hausknecht terms ''the deep forest of female adolescence" (36).

Toss' initial encounter with the poacher betrays a violence that foreshadows the increasingly sexual nature of his relation to her mother. Eager to help in the business of docking and tailing the lambs, she approaches Ethan, who is sharpening his knife. Reacting on impulse, Ethan unflinchingly cuts the lamb that Toss is holding in her arms, and its blood splatters across her face. She swoons from the shock, reeling beneath the force of such visceral violence. The ''first blood'' that Toss later smears across her face like war paint replicates the red lipstick that Liz is circumspectly applying in her bedroom mirror before welcoming Ethan to their noonday meal. In anticipation of Ethan's initial gesture of seduction, Liz preens before her mirror; Toss subsequently repeats this by creating a duplicate dressing room inside a gutted car that sits abandoned at the site of her father's fall. Toss strips to the waist while gazing at her own reflection in the mirror, her exposed torso doubling her mother's in a later scene in which Liz strips to the waist, reclaiming her sexuality by soliciting the poacher's advances. Perched in a nearby tree, Toss is privy to their impassioned gestures and cries. Afterward, Toss watches while the two ferociously devour leftover scraps of meat, while sharing unintelligible utterances.

It is through Toss' eyes and ears that we experience the home as unheimlich. At night, Toss lies in her bed, where she dreams of a duel between Ethan and her father. Armed with swords, both men ride fiercely through the bleak landscape like medieval Knights of the Round Table. Ward remarks, ''The set had a medieval feel, as if we were seeing it through Toss's eyes after she had been influenced by Grimms' Fairy Tales'' (73). Ward's choreography actualizes the intensity of Toss' Oedipal relation to Ethan and her mother and later is echoed in the primeval forest dreamscape of Christine Jeffs' Rain (2001), where 13-year-old Janey secretly seduces her mother's lover, an itinerant boatie and photographer whose charismatic appeal recalls that of the poacher Ethan.

The cyclical progression of the four elements—fire, air, water, earth — that marked the film's opening scenes continue to modulate Toss' emotional movement toward maturity. As night falls, torrents of rain assail the old shed

Toss creates an unusual dressing room in Vigil.

where Toss and Birdie huddle together. Toss soon drifts into an uneasy sleep and has another unsettling dream. Hearing the menacing sound of approaching horses' hooves, she revisits the barn, where farm equipment has acquired a mysterious life of its own. Suddenly, Ethan drops down from the sky and assails her head with electric sheers, recalling the celebrated dream scene from E. T. A. Hoffmann's tale in which the child Nathaniel dreams that the Sandman takes ''red-glowing dust out of the flame with his hands'' and then attempts to sprinkle it into his eyes (91). Toss screams and wakes up suddenly, carefully touching her head to ascertain that it is still in place. Feeling a moist sensation, she reaches under her jacket and, when she extracts her hand, sees that it is covered in blood. Frightened, she alerts her grandfather to the fact that she is dying. When Birdie flatly replies, ''Aren't we all,'' Toss wraps herself in a blanket and goes outside to stand alone in the rain. Framed in profile, she ceremonially removes the woolen hood that has protected her head and masked her face; she quietly opens up the blanket to cleanse her body of menstrual blood. This solemn moment marks Toss' acceptance of her body as the site of her struggle with her environment (Boudreau, 44). It figures centrally in her complex rite of passage, doubling the bleak funeral scene in which her mother, emotionally denuded, cries silently in the rain at her father's grave.

The following morning, Toss watches from the window as Ethan beats on the shed door in an attempt to say good-bye to her before he drives off. Watching as his car crashes across the broken gate separating their farmhouse from the world outside, Toss blinks several times, as though to confirm that her final vision of Ethan is truly no longer a vision and that she has stopped fantasizing. His departure, which doubles her inaugural loss of her father, allegorically demarcates the traumatic period of readjustment experienced by New Zealanders, who, divested of their privileged trade relation with the British in the mid-1970s, were subsequently forced to adapt to their new ambivalent status (Molloy, 167). Ethan's return to the devastated farm family in the role of a "poacher," the shady "double" of the dead symbolic father, must be viewed as the working through of traumatic loss within the parameters of an ad hoc matriarchal unit. Like those New Zealand farmwives who at the time were assuming more active roles in the farm business, Liz playfully reminds Ethan following their lovemaking, "I might as well make use of you while you're on the payroll.'' Toss' loss of "double" vision in the final scene corresponds to her loss of dual fathers and so confirms her affirmation of self. As the girl's coming-of-age story revolves around her shifting relationship to the two fathers, Justin and Ethan, it offers us an allegorical re-envisioning of national evolution moving beyond the sanctuary of the past into the uncertain future.

Vigil represents a departure from earlier New Zealand films where, as Martin and Edwards point out, physical engagement with the environs of the new country represented a rite of passage to manhood (48). In Ward's film, the innocent body of the adolescent girl is interfaced with a primordial New Zealand landscape that, while appealing to our nostalgia for an archaic, primitive past, discloses the inevitability of a new postcolonial identity. As the family farmhouse recedes on the horizon, Toss hesitates momentarily but then proceeds down the road, following the elevated mobile home that is pulled along behind Birdie's repaired tractor. This closing scene is reiterated in the final scene of Rain, where we share Janey's uneasy perspective as she journeys down the road away from the world of childhood, marked forever by the sense of responsibility she shares with her mother for her younger brother's death at the beach. In Vigil, Ward captures the secret world of the adolescent girl in a film that questions the dominant representations of New Zealand nationhood by refocusing our attention on the female storyteller. The female teller of tales continues to figure prominently in recent New Zealand films, such as Brad McGann's In My Father's Den (2004), where world-weary war journalist Paul finds a reflection of his former self in 16-year-old Celia, a spinner of tales, like he is, who plans to renounce

182 narrating gender and difference her small-town life in central Otago and realize her literary ambitions in Europe.

Like Vigil, Niki Caro's Whale Rider provides a legend of loss transformed. During an interview at the TriBeCa Film Festival, filmmaker Caro stated, ''I was actually very inspired by New Zealand films in my growing-up years. It was Vincent Ward's first film, Vigil, and his short films that opened up a whole new world for me. And it was a world I could move around in'' (in Kehr, Ei: 23). Caro's film opens with a peaceful seascape on the eastern coast of New Zealand and the deep blue marine world inhabited by the whales, who connect the Ngati Konoki tribe of Whangara to the sacred traditions of their ancestors. According to Maori legend, their tribal ancestor Paikea rode into the village on the back of a whale. The film story begins with the birth of Pai, who is named after her ancestor Paikea and so represents the end of a long line of tribal chiefs. Like Vigil, the film opens with a narrative of loss. Pai suffers the traumatic loss of her twin brother and her mother, who both die in childbirth. Grief-stricken, her father, Porourangi, departs for Europe to pursue a career producing modernist sculpture, leaving Pai behind with her paternal grandfather, Koro, the Whangara village chief, and her grandmother, Nanny Flowers. The film story recommences 12 years later, chronicling the coming-of-age story of the girl Pai.

The film is an adaptation of Witi Ihimaera's novel in which the girl's coming-of-age story acquires the mythic dimensions associated with the tale of an ancient bull whale. Pai's early loss parallels that of the whale, who, years earlier, faced abandonment when sharks savaged his mother in the shallows of Hawaiki. The calf's mournful crying was heard by the whale rider Paikea, who succored him and entered the sea playing a flute. Many years later, the ancient bull whale remembers his master's flute music as a ''rhapsody of adolescence" (17). The novel explains that the male voice of the whale rider, Paikea, possesses a supernatural quality that allows him to communicate with the whales and command them. In the film adaptation, the whale rider's supernatural ability to interlock with nature is articulated predominantly through the female voice. Pai's voice-over narration introduces us to the family and the events surrounding her birth. At the film's beginning, Pai's voice seems to emanate from a murky blue depth that is coincident with that ''glassy sea known as the Pathway of the Sun,'' thus associating the girl's voice with a primeval moment prior to the creation of Western civilization (Ihimaera, 16). The remainder of the film works to restore to the woman's voice its mythical dimension and thus accomplish its harmonization within the patriarchal assemblage of Maori culture, which had effectively excluded it.

While Pai's grandmother, Nanny Flowers, serves as a constant source of strength and wisdom, Pai's life is profoundly affected not only by the loss of her mother at infancy but also by the emotional absence of her grandfather, who remains bitter about the death of his grandson, whom he regards as the sole legitimate heir to the chieftaincy. When his firstborn son, Porourangi, returns home from Europe for a rare visit, Koro meets with him in the whare whakairo [carved meeting house] and reproaches him for his neglect of traditional Maori customs, admonishing him for failing to complete the carving on his waka [sacred canoe], which he began before his departure. During a slide presentation of his recent work, Porourangi adds insult to injury when he confesses to his audience of curious spectators that he is involved with a German woman, Ana, who is pregnant with his child. Koro becomes enraged with his son's refusal of family tradition and fumes that Pai is of no use to him. Porourangi later asks Pai if she would like to return with him to his new home in Germany, and initially, Pai agrees to accompany him. When the day of their departure from Whangara arrives, Koro watches from the window of their home and comments to Nanny, ''When she was born, that's when things went wrong for us.'' Depleted and childless, the Apirana house is haunted by a colonial presence that continues to inhabit private space, ''rendering it the most unhomely place of all'' (Molloy, 164).

Pai is not only excluded from her grandparents' home—which clearly is neither her home nor strictly theirs—but also from the public spaces of the meetinghouse and chief school. Summoned home by the mystical sounds of the sea, Pai stands at the threshold of the meetinghouse, where she greets her grandfather. Immersed in conversation with other male elders in their search through sacred books for answers to the community's dilemma, he sternly replies, while barely looking up, ''Not now, Pai.'' The meetinghouse that traditionally served as a venue for intertribal gatherings and political debate, according to Jeffrey Sissons, also served as the site where the elders met to discuss responses to colonialism (36). While the meetinghouse clearly serves as the focal point of the Whangara settlement, it forecloses the feminine voice, thereby reinforcing the sense of the unhomely in the home for women. Pai is also denied admission to Koro's chief school, where he provides the Maori boys of the community with training in the rituals and customs of their tribe. When the boys arrive at the marae [ancestral meeting place] for their initial lesson, Nanny summons Pai for the opening karanga, which Maori feminist Kathie Irwin describes as ''the first call of welcome to all who have gathered, the living and the dead'' (14). Despite Koro's protests, Nanny begins the karanga standing in the porch of the meetinghouse. Historian Anne Salmond observes that such women, widely admired for their clear, strong voices, are known in their iwi [tribe] as "bugles" (127). Pai then replies to her grandmother from the visiting side and, following the tradition of the pai arahi [leaders over the threshold], leads the boys who process to the marae tea, the central space between the hosts and guests during a welcome. Yet Koro insists that Pai sit behind the men rather than among them, thus prohibiting her participation. Gender division on the marae, as Salmond points out, is based upon the principle that men are tapu [sacred], whereas women are noa [common] (127). A woman can only stand to speak on the marae if her birth is so high that her mana [prestige] overrides her noa status, and, as Salmond notes, this rare occurrence is possible only in certain tribes (127).

Although patriarchal tradition embodied in her grandfather's prohibition prevents Pai from participating in the traditional whare whakairo and chief school, her primordial oceanic home provides her with shelter and offers her an alternative space to fashion a feminine identity. The sea and its creatures remain inaccessible to her grandfather and his male students, however. Still searching for a future chief, Koro takes the boys to an isolated inlet where he throws his reiputa [whale tooth] pendant into the ocean. He tells them that they must dive and retrieve it, for the one who finds it will become chief. Koro is devastated when none surface with it and blames Pai for their failure, insisting that she leave their home. From the dark still solitude, Koro calls on the ancient ones. His lament is drawn from that of Paikea, who had called on the ancient ones when his canoe sank. It is Pai's nondiegetic voice-over recitation, however, that usurps the supernatural authority of the male voice in this scene, informing us that the ancient ones are not listening. Pai's mystical capacity to interlock with nature recalls the supernatural strength of another New Zealand swimmer, Alex Archer, who in filmmaker Megan Simpson's Alex (1993) overcomes personal loss to win selection for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. The film shows how Alex's unique relation to the sea and its creatures provides her with exceptional power and speed in the pool, thus enabling her to triumph over her British rival, Maggie Benton. Newcomers to New Zealand, the cosmopolitan Bentons are portrayed as colonial usurpers who embody the potential threat of ferocious international competition. As in Whale Rider, the film's opening and closing scenes connect Alex's coming-of-age story with the spiritual trajectory of the primeval creatures that guide her. Indeed, Pai's forceful voice-over, which resists colonial or patriarchal domination, echoes that of Alex at the film's close: "I've always known that in another life I was or will be a dolphin. I leap over and through the waves, free and triumphant.''

Pai's destiny, along with that of the Ngati Konoki tribe, is assured when

Lauren Jackson plays the title role in Alex (1993), the story of an inspiring New Zealand girl.

she reclaims her connection to her ancestress, Muriwai. While seated with her granddaughter in the waka overlooking the ocean, Nanny explains to Pai the significance of her matriarchal lineage: ''You have the blood of Muriwai in your veins, girl.'' Muriwai's story provides the feminine counterpart to that of Paikea. At the time of the Great Fleet, Muriwai and the sisters of the Matatua canoe sighted a good landing place at Whakatane (Irwin, 15; Sal-mond, 149).3 The men disembarked to explore this inviting place, but Muriwai and the others were left aboard the canoe (Salmond, 149). Treacherous tides dislodged the canoe, which proceeded to drift out to sea. Usually, only men were permitted to paddle a canoe, but in the moment of immediate danger, Muriwai took up a paddle and, according to Salmond, cried out, ''Let me make myself a man!'' (149). She commanded her crew and managed to paddle the Matatua to safety, saving them all from certain destruction. Muri-wai's deeds are the source for the "kawa wahine," which Irwin describes as ''a women's etiquette amongst the tribes descended from Muriwai . . . highborn women in the direct line from Muriwai have held the right to speak on the marae" (15). Pai's whakapapa [genealogy] would clearly place her among those privileged few.

In the face of her grandfather's prohibition, however, Pai is forced to call to the ancient ones from her father's waka. Balanced on the periphery of

Pai Waka Whale Rider
Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) calls to the ancient ones from the waka in Whale Rider (2002).

the coastline, the forgotten waka serves Pai as an alternative home, which connects her to the sea, her true spiritual abode. Pai's transformation of the abandoned canoe into a space of feminine performance recalls Toss' conversion of the deserted auto into a girl's vanity. In each film, the girl's private performance space permits her to formulate a feminine identity through role-playing apart from the preconceptions and prohibitions of patriarchal society. This private space that each girl inhabits not only serves to commemorate the mythic past, which is allegorically expressed in the loss of family members and/or community, but also allows her to look ahead to the unforeseeable future. Pai's destiny is clear when she later retrieves the magical whale tooth ornament from the ocean floor; the sounds of the ancient ones guide her to it and thus assure her ascendance to the chieftaincy. In her unique ability to transform the village landscape through the traditional gestures, language, and songs of the Maori, Pai usurps the traditionally male role of the storyteller and rewrites the initial scenario of loss as a narrative of resistance.

The final scene shows Pai, like her ancestress Muriwai, take command of the waka, restoring it to its position of pride. Seated in the center beside her grandfather, Pai is surrounded by a crew composed of the male members of the Apirana family and Maori community, who together move gracefully in time with the rhythmic chant she provides as they paddle the craft toward the Pacific rim. Here, Pai plots her own future course and that of her people with the pronouncement, ''I am not a prophet, but I know that our people will keep going forward, all together, with all of our strength.'' Pai's mystical connection to the sea offers her a powerful vision of personal destiny, which retells her traumatized past and that of the Maori community as a story of self-possession within the postcolonial landscape of New Zealand. This solemn moment serves as a mythic site where the past becomes the present, where the natural environment blends with the supernatural and where a broken male lineage is restored in its association with the feminine.

In both films discussed, girls use fantasy, storytelling, and myth to generate landscapes in which they do figure, in part as a response to those cultural and/or familial landscapes in which they do not. The fairy-tale tropes and tribal myths that inform the girl's story in Vigil and Whale Rider, respectively, are rooted in an oral folk tradition and, as feminist historian Marina Warner notes, are passed down from generation to generation (34). While invoking oral folk tradition, the girl's story in each film offers a redemptive fantasy, which may entail collusion with structures of oppression, as in Whale Rider, or involve strategies of resistance, as in Vigil. One might argue that these films fabricate an escapist vision when compared with such recent New Zealand films as Lee Tamahori's Once Were Warriors (1994) and Harold Brodie's Orphans and Angels (2003), which address grim urban realities such as racial violence and domestic abuse, alcoholism, and drug addiction, which the contemporary girl must confront in the city. And yet, the girl capable of determining her own place within the postcolonial landscapes depicted in Vigil and Whale Rider is missing from the dark cityscapes predominant in Tamahori and Brodie's dramas, and she is severely curtailed within such New Zealand films as Jane Campion's The Piano (1993) and Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (1994), where, as Molloy convincingly argues, the feminine creative impulse is effectively shattered (154). Clearly offering an alternative to these pessimistic national narratives of the 1990s, Whale Rider returns to the triumphant tale of girlhood evident in Alex and Vigil, in which the implicit promise of a new feminine nation becomes apparent in the ascendant figure of the coming-of-age girl. Whale Rider continues to demonstrate the ''opening toward the new'' already discernible in Vigil, where, in Julia Kristeva's terms, uncanniness allows us to move beyond our own fragile boundaries and ''tally with the incongruous'' (188). In each film, the girl assumes the traditional role of the storyteller, revealing a distinct vision and voice that ensure her active presence in the discourses of emergent nationalisms.

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