Niki Caro is a New Zealand film director and screenwriter, born in 1967. Caro was born in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. She was educated first at the Kadimah College in Auckland, and then the Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland. The School is a private girls’ school, and ranks among the top-achieving schools in New Zealand.
In the late 1980s, Caro enrolled in the Elam School of Fine Arts to pursue training as a sculptor. However her interest shifted to film studies. She graduated from Elam in 1988, at the age of 21. For post-graduate studies, Caro enrolled at the Swinburne University of Technology, located at Melbourne, Victoria.
Following the completion of her studies, Caro initially directed television commercials. In 1992, she directed and wrote an episode for the anthology television series “Another Country” (1992). In 1998, Caro directed her first feature film “Memory and Desire”. It was an adaptation of a short story by Peter Wells (1950-2019), concerning the depression and apparent suicide of a Japanese married man. The film was critically well-received and won a New Zealand film award.
Caro next directed the feature film “Whale Rider” (2002).. It depicts a young Maori girl, Paikea “Pai” Apirana (played by Keisha Castle-Hughes) , who stands as a candidate for the position of tribal chief. The film earned over 41 million dollars at the worldwide box office, becoming one of New Zealand’s most commercially successful films. The film also won an award at the Sundance Film Festival.
In 2005, Caro directed her first American film, “North Country”. The film was loosely based on the legal case “Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.”, a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit concerning the treatment of female miners in a Minnesota-based mine. The film earned about 25 million dollars at the worldwide box office, failing to recover its budget expenses. Two of the films actresses (Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand) were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, but neither of them won.
In 2009, Caro directed the romantic drama “A Heavenly Vintage”, an adaptation on the fantasy novel “The Vintner’s Luck” (1998) by Elizabeth Knox. The film won three awards at the Sedona Film Festival, but was criticized for toning down the homosexual relationship depicted in the novel.
In 2015, Caro directed the sports drama “McFarland, USA”. The film is based on the life of track and field coach James White (1941-), and the first victory of the McFarland High School at a cross-country running championship in 1987. The film won about 46 million dollars at the worldwide box office, the commercially most successful film in Caro’s career to that point.
In 2017, Caro directed the World War II-themed war film “The Zookeeper’s Wife”. The film was based on the lives of a married couple, the zoologist Jan Zabinski (1897-1974) and the children’s writer Antonina Erdman ( 1908-1971). During the foreign occupation of Poland in World War II, the Zabinskis used the abandoned buildings of the Warsaw Zoo and their privately-owned villa to shelter hundreds of displaced Jews. They managed to rescue about 300 people. Caro won an award at the Heartland Film Festival for her direction in this film.
In 2017, Caro was hired by the Walt Disney Company to direct a live-action remake of “Mulan” (1998). Caro was reportedly the second female film director entrusted by Disney to direct a big-budget film, following Ava DuVernay (1972-). Caro’s remake is scheduled for release in 2020.
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