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Rights to <i>Whale Rider</i> snapped up

Whale Rider
Newmarket Films has acquired all North American rights to South Pacific Pictures contemporary fable, Whale Rider.

The deal was done at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Whale Rider had its world debut. At the Festival, it charmed audiences and won the AGF People's Choice Awards, following in the footsteps of other notable audience award winners, Amelie (2001), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), American Beauty (1999), and Life Is Beautiful (1998).

Newmarket Films is headed by Bob Berney, the man responsible for the successful North American seasons of such recent independent films as Memento, Y Tu Mama Tambien and the smash hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"Whale Rider is a truly special film that will touch audiences of all ages," said Bob Berney, President of Newmarket Films. Based on a Maori legend, the story's mythic quality is captured brilliantly by director Niki Caro and the lead performance by Keisha Castle-Hughes is a true discovery."

South Pacific Pictures Managing Director and Whale Rider producer John Barnett says "We know that Newmarket will ensure Whale Rider is seen by the widest possible audience in North America and we are thrilled to be working with them."

Whale Rider was written and directed by Niki Caro, whose first feature Memory And Desire won the Best Film Award at the 1999 New Zealand Film Awards. The film is adapted from the best selling novel by Witi Ihimaera and is produced for South. Author Witi Ihimaera is also Associate Producer.

Set in a small coastal community, Whale Rider tells the story of a young girl's fight to prove her love, her leadership and her destiny. The film was shot on location in Whangara, on the East Coast and stars newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Newmarket Films is the recently launched distribution arm of Newmarket Capital, which was founded in 1994 by William Tyrer and Chris Ball, and specializes in production, co-production, video distribution and third party financing of feature films.

Newmarket recently produced or co-produced such box-office hits as Memento , Cruel Intentions, The Mexican and The Skulls. Under its film financing banner, Newmarket has been involved with more than 75 features, including such well-known titles as The Importance Of Being Earnest, Topsy Turvy and The Usual Suspects.