As expected, Whale Rider won nearly all the relevant categories at the New Zealand Film Awards tonight (Dec 8) in Auckland, including best film for producers Tim Sanders and John Barnett, best director and best writer for Niki Caro, and best actress for Keisha Castle-Hughes.

With Caro currently in the US, Witi Ihimaera, author of the book on which the film is based, accepted the script award on her behalf, and Hone Taumaunu, a significant person in Whangara, where the movie was filmed, accepted the award for best director. Taumaunu's grandson, Mana Taumaunu, won the best juvenile performer award for his role in the film.

The best actor award went to Waihoroi Shortland for his role as Shylock in The Maori Merchant Of Venice, directed by Don Selwyn and produced by Ruth Kaupua Panapa.

In all, Whale Rider won nine awards, while the NZ/UK/Canadian co-production Nemesis Game won four including best cinematography for Aaron Morton.

Meanwhile, in the digital feature categories, Christmas took home all but won one of the five awards. Director and producer Gregory King is currently in Amsterdam at the Maurits Binger Institute, but the other producer, Leanne Saunders, was on hand to accept the honours.

The winners of the feature categories of the New Zealand Film Awards are:

Best film -- Tim Sanders, John Barnett, Whale Rider
Director -- Niki Caro, Whale Rider
Best actor -- Waihoroi Shortland, The Maori Merchant Of Venice
Best actress -- Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
Supporting actor -- Cliff Curtis, Whale Rider
Supporting actress -- Vicky Haughton, Whale Rider
Juvenile performer -- Mana Taumaunu, Whale Rider
Screenplay -- Niki Caro, Whale Rider
Cinematography -- Aaron Morton, Nemesis Game
Editing -- Bruce Lange, Nemesis Game
Original music -- Lisa Gerrard, Whale Rider
Contribution to a soundtrack -- Tim Prebble, Dave Whitehead, Gethin Greagh, The Locals
Design -- Peter Cosco, Nemesis Game
Costume design -- Kirsty Cameron, Whale Rider
Makeup -- Barbara Barkey, Nemesis Game

Digital Features
Best digital feature -- Christmas, producers Leanne Saunders, Gregory King.
Performance -- Darien Takle, Christmas
Script -- Gregory King, Christmas
Technical contribution -- Caroline Faigan, Christmas
Special Jury Prize -- Christopher Brown for his role in Orphans And Angels