London-based sales outfit The Works has boarded Whale Rider, a drama set in the Maori community and written and directed by Memory And Desire's Niki Caro.

Delivered in August, the $4.6m (NZ$10m) film is based on the novel by New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera (The Matriach, Tangi). It tells the story of a young girl's fight to prove herself and was shot on location in Whangara, on New Zealand's East Coast.

Newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes has the lead role. Cliff Curtis, whose credits include Collateral Damage, Training Day and Blow, also stars.

The deal was negotiated by producer John Barnett of New Zealand-based South Pacific Pictures and Aline Perry, chief executive of The Works.

'We are thrilled to represent this hauntingly beautiful piece of work," said Perry. "It is a film that we feel has international appeal - the emotional story between the generations is timeless and Leon Narbey's photography invites you to engage in the landscape of the relationships.'

Also producing are Tim Sanders and Frank Huebner of Germany's ApolloMedia. Executive Producers are Bill Gavin (What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted') and Linda Goldstein Knowlton (The Shipping News, Crazy In Alabama).

Investors include the New Zealand Film Production Fund, German regional support fund the Filmstiftung NRW, the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ on Air. BIM has pre-bought rights for Italy, while Pandora Film in Germany was a production partner.