Niki Caro

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Niki Caro
Born 1967 (age 48–49)
Wellington, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealander
Occupation Film director, film producer, screenwriter
Years active 1984–present
Spouse(s) Andrew Lister
Children 2

Nikola Jean "Niki" Caro MNZM (born 1967) is a film director, producer and screenwriter who was born in Wellington, New Zealand. Her 2002 film Whale Rider was critically praised and won a number of awards at international film festivals.[1]

Early life[edit]

Caro was born in Wellington, New Zealand. She attended Kadimah College, Auckland, then Diocesan School for Girls, where she received an alumni award.[2] Caro graduated with a BFA from the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland in 1988, and received an MFA from Swinburne University of Technology.[3]


Caro first found interest in working with metal sculptures, but later changed in it to film. Caro was self-taught in film through only reading narrative film books. She started out with writing and once she was done writing a script, her mother typed it up for her at work.

Her first experience with a professional production company was when she wrote and directed for the television series, Another Country. She did not have any experience in directing, but it felt it was instinctual once she started working with the actors.[4]

Her first film, Memory and Desire, was chosen for the New Zealand Prestigious Critics week in 1998. In 1999 the movie was voted best new film at the New Zealand Film Awards.

Caro went on to write and direct Whale Rider, which is about a Māori girl that has to stand up against the other men and her grandfather in the tribe to show she can be as much of a leader as the boys who were being trained to be leaders. Caro argues that Whale Rider is more about leadership than sexism because the Māori are also profoundly matriarchal. Caro says there is a Māori saying that "women lead from behind," even though in their culture, knowledge and lineage are passed down through the males and not the woman.[5] She directed thirteen-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes to a performance nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.

With the success of Whale Rider under her belt, Caro was chosen to direct her first Hollywood film, North Country (2005), starring Charlize Theron. It was later nominated for Best Actress for lead and supporting role at the Oscars and also was nominated for a Golden Globe.[6]

After doing North Country, Caro went back to New Zealand to write and direct the feature film The Vintner's Luck (2009) otherwise known as A Heavenly Vintage, that is about a peasant winemaker who sets out to make the perfect vintage wine.[7] The film reunited her with her Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes.

In 2013 Caro announced plans to direct the film adaptation of The Zookeeper's Wife starring American actress Jessica Chastain.[8]

McFarland, USA starring Kevin Costner and directed by Caro was released in February 2015.

On Cannes[edit]

Caro found the Cannes Film Festival to be different from what she thought. She thought she would be mingling with other filmmakers and discussing other films, but the festival is only a market and is very cut-throat. Caro states she is still terrified of the Cannes Film Festival.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Caro is married to architect Andrew Lister, and they have two daughters, Tui and Pearl.[10] Their first daughter was born shortly after the success of Whale Rider. Because Caro was pregnant, she was unable to attend any of the premieres for the film. Caro said she was sad, but at the same time thought it may not be such a bad thing because success in America is so radical.[11]


Year Title Credits Notes IMDB
2016 The Zookeeper's Wife Director Filming
2015 McFarland, USA Director
2009 The Vintner's Luck Director, Writer, Producer Based on the novel by Elizabeth Knox [1][12]
2005 North Country Director Inspired by a book by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler [2]
2002 Whale Rider Director, Writer Based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera [3][13]
2001-2003 Mercy Peak Director Television Series in New Zealand [4][14]
2001-2002 Being Eve Writer Television Series in New Zealand [5][15]
1999 Jackson's Wharf Director, Writer, Storyliner Television Series in New Zealand [6][16]
1998 Memory and Desire Director, Writer Based on a short story by Peter Wells[17] [7][18]
1996 Footage Director Television Documentary [19]
1995 Plain Tastes Director, Writer Television Drama [20]
1994 Old Bastards Director, Writer Experimental Short Film [21]
1994 Sure to Rise Director, Writer Short [8][22]
1992 The Minute Production Manager Short [23]
1992 The Summer the Queen Came Director, Writer Television - under series "Another Country" [24]
1990 Bad Note for a Heart Director Music Video [25]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • Caro was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the film industry in the 2004 New Year Honours.[26]
  • Caro was one of the honorees for Ms. Magazine's 10 women of the year in 2003[27]
  • Whale Rider received Best Feature Film for British Academy Children's Awards
  • Caro's short film Memory and Desire was nominated for Best Film and Best Screenplay Adaptation at the Nokia New Zealand Film Awards,1999.
  • The television series Jackson's Wharf received the Best Drama Script award for at the TV Guide Television Awards, 1999.
  • Caro's short film Memory and Desire was selected for Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival, 1998
  • Caro's television documentary Footage was selected for the Venice Film Festival, 1996
  • Caro's short for Sure to Rise was nominated for the Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, 1994
  • Caro was nominated for Best Director and Best Writer at the NZ Film and Television Awards (1994) for The Summer the Queen Came
  • Won Best Video at NZ Music Awards (1990) for Bad Note for a Heart

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stacie Stukin (December 2003). "Niki Caro". Women of the Year 2003 (Ms. Magazine). Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  2. ^ S. "Niki Caro". Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  3. ^ "Alumni - Niki Caro". University of Auckland. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  4. ^ . NZonscreen Retrieved 2012-05-05.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "women 2003". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  6. ^ "imdb North County=". Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  7. ^ "Vintners Luck=". Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  8. ^ Kit, Borys (30 April 2013). "Jessica Chastain Attached to Star in 'The Zookeeper's Wife' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  9. ^ "Niki Caro". Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  10. ^ "Nikki Caro". Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  11. ^ "Niki Caro". 4 (screentalk). Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  12. ^ . nzonscreen Retrieved 2012-05-06.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "whale rider". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  14. ^ "Mercy Peak". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  15. ^ "Being Eve". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  16. ^ "Jackson's Wharf". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  17. ^ Memory & Desire - 1997
  18. ^ "Memory and Desire". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  19. ^ "Footage". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  20. ^ "Plain Tastes". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  21. ^ "Old Bastards". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  22. ^ "Sure to Rise". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  23. ^ "The Minute". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  24. ^ "The Summer the Queen Came". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  25. ^ "Bad Note for a Heart". nzonscreen. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  26. ^ New Year Honours List 2004. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  27. ^ "News Fronts". JSTOR. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 

External links[edit]