Women in Film: Caro, Niki–Whale Rider, Memory and Desire

Niki Caro’s Career

Niki Caro is one of the most inventive filmmakers to emerge from New Zealand in recent years. Her first feature, Memory and Desire, was selected for Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. It was voted Best Film in the 1999 New Zealand Film Awards, also winning a Special Jury Prize for Caro’s work as both writer and director.

Her short films have been similarly honored: Sure to Rise in competition in Cannes in 1994; and Footage at the Venice Film Festival in 1996.

Caro completed a BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland and a Postgraduate Diploma in Film from Swinburne in Melbourne. Returning to New Zealand, she wrote and directed several highly regarded television dramas: Plain Tastes, a one-hour television drama commissioned by the prestigious Television New Zealand Montana Sunday Theatre slot; The Summer the Queen Came, a half hour television drama; and a half-hour episode for the 1995 New Zealand Film and Television Awards best drama series winner, True Life Stories.

Whale Rider

Caro has received global recognition for her internationally acclaimed and award-winning feature Whale Rider. Caro wrote the screenplay for Whale Rider, adapting Maori author Witi Ihimaera’s acclaimed novel of the same name. She also directed the film. Whale Rider has become New Zealand’s most financially successful movie, playing in Australia, America, Europe, Asia, and South America. Caro and Whale Rider have won or been nominated for over fifty international awards, including audience awards at prestigious international film festivals including Toronto, Sundance, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Seattle, Maui and Lake Placid. Caro was also awarded the Audience Choice Best Director Award at Seattle.

She won a Humanitas Award, an American-based prize for film and television makers whose work offers insight into contemporary society.

Caro is married to architect Andrew Lister.