Posts Tagged ‘Hawaiian


Mililani Native Lands Moana Role


When Disney announced the Hawaii set animated feature Moana two years ago the state let out a collective sound of joy (and in some instances a collective sigh) at a new high profile Hollywood production that shine the spotlight at the Hawaiian culture. Slowly over the course of the two years since, more details have emerged about the film most notably that Dwayne Johnson would have a major role in the film as the voice of the Hawaiian demi-god Maui.

Today Disney unveiled that 14-year old Mililani native Auli‘i Cravalho has landed the title role of Moana, and in true local fashion, she sounds just right for the role. In speaking with People magazine on landing the role and playing Moana:

“From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress . . .”

“Moana is such an amazing character . . . She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.”

Even her co-star The Rock was quick to congratulate his co-star:

There’s also a nice featurette which shows Auli‘i’s casting and when the film’s producers told her that she had gotten the role:

From this short video, it sounds like the film’s creators have made the right choice. I love Auli‘i’s energy and I’m sure that will translate into her voice work that will give Disney animators a lot to work with. Because the synopsis of the film doesn’t state that Moana is a princess, I’m going to stop short of calling her a “Disney Princess” (besides, Hawaiians didn’t even have princesses). Even so, I’m sure that like myself, the rest of the state is proud to have Auli‘i represent Hawaii and Hawaiians on the big screen.

I think we’ve come quite aways from “Ohana means family. And family means no one gets left behind.”

Moana is due out in theaters in November 2016.


The Curious Case of a Barbarian Princess


We Hawaiians are a funny bunch. We want the moon but we don’t want to lasso it and pull it down ourselves. We also can’t make decisions together (another post altogether–actually, another blog altogether). Here’s the setup: a movie or tv show is made about or depicts characters from Hawaii. Protests and objections ensue because the representations of locals, specifically Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture, are depicted inaccurately.

Case in Point: Barbarian Princess. It tells the story of one of the kingdom of Hawaii’s last royals, a young girl who at age 17 had to deal with the aftermath of her homeland being dissolved. As far as I know, this is the first legitimate movie to showcase Hawaiian history AND have a chance for some kind of release beyond the shores of Hawaii. At the heart of the “controversy” is that the lead actress is not of Hawaiian ancestry and that the title of the film is inaccurate and offensive (reports via Honolulu Advertiser and KHNL).

Ok, I get it. Ideally we’d like to have our own people (Hawaiians) play roles based on ourselves. I also can see how at first glance the title Barbarian Princess may seem offensive. But my feeling is that these are small gripes in the bigger scheme of things. Here we have a movie about our people that could potentially be released across the country–a movie that tells the story of Hawaii, its people, and our history. In essence, something to educate the world about Hawaii. Doesn’t this sound like a good thing?

An early poster for the movie which shows the film's previous title.

An early poster for the movie which shows the film's previous title.

I say, it is. As a movie person, when I put down the $10 that it costs for a movie ticket these days I want to be sure that I’m paying for something good. If the actor chosen for a role can act, portray their character well, and make the audience believe that they are that character then what does it matter what race, ethnicity or gender they are? Throughout the history of Hollywood there have been tons of cases where actors have been chosen for roles where they might not have originally fit. An African American actor in place of a Caucasian one, a male character rewritten as a female one, and all different other scenarios. The fact of the matter is, in movies actors take on the role of someone other than themself and so I have no problem with a non-Hawaiian playing a Hawaiian.

As for the title of the movie, Barbarian Princess, I actually like the title and applaud the producers for going back to it. Originally the title was given to Ka’iulani by the media during that time in anti-monarchy propaganda, when in actuality she was far from it. This is the message that the creators of the movie are trying to convey. By naming the movie Barbarian Princess, something clearly Ka’iulani was not, it sets up an allegory for the audience. For us here in Hawaii, before we see the movie we question title as we see it as something that’s not true. For those outside of Hawaii, or have little to no knowledge of Hawaiian history, they see the title and after watching the movie find out that she wasn’t actually a “barbarian princess” and then wonder why the movie was given that title. In both cases, the title Barbarian Princess gives people something to think about and chew on–which in the end is something that any good movie does . . . it challenges you and makes you think.

Contact Red Band Project