Strong female leads seem to be the common thread of the NI’s best films of the year. In Far from Heaven (NI 354), writer-director Todd Haynes’ subversive retake of the Hollywood ‘women’s picture’, Cathy lives the ‘American Dream’ – executive husband, perfect home and family, beautiful and fashionable clothes, even the leisure time for charitable work. Yet, when seen in public with her black gardener, her life unravels.
The main character of Niki Caro’s uplifting Whale Rider (NI 359), also struggles against conformity and chauvinism. Pai, only 12 years old, but resourceful and courageous, is an obvious natural leader of her Maori community, yet as a girl is excluded from tribal initiation.
In Spirited Away (NI 361), Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful and subtle animated fantasy, Chihiro is a self-centred teenager who learns to value others while being true to herself.