by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum
Long ago, there was a goddess named Te Fiti who had the power to create life, until one day a shape-shifting demigod named Maui stole the heart from inside her. A thousand years later, Moana is the daughter of the chief of the Island of Motunui. She has been told all her life that her destiny is to remain where she is and become the next chief. But the ocean has been calling to her ever since she was a little girl and now it’s up to Moana to set sail and save her island for something magical and sinister is destroying all their food. Moana must travel beyond the safety of the reef to find the seemingly self-centered “demiguy” Maui and restore Te Fiti’s heart and bring life back to her island.
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Moana, Disney’s 3D animated fantasy adventure film, was released in 2016. Starring the voices of Auliʻi Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson, with a song writing team including Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, Moana burst onto the screen with magic, catchy tunes, and an unforgettable heroine.
The film explores themes of identity and the importance of finding one’s own place in the world. It also shows its titular female protagonist as possessing inner strength and resourcefulness, and she is shown in the climax of the film achieving her goal through kindness and understanding rather than resolving her problems with violence, making Moana a role model for girls and boys alike.
- Identity is a central theme in Moana. How do you think each of the main characters sees themselves at the start of the film vs. the end? Do their perceptions of themselves (and therefore others) change throughout the film? How so?
- Well-rounded characters have both strengths and flaws. For example, Maui is both vain and heroic at the same time. What do you think Moana’s strengths and flaws might be?
- Moana’s grandmother encourages Moana to listen to her own heart and leave the island, which leads to Moana saving her people. By contrast, Moana’s father continually forbids her to ever leave the island out of a desire to protect her. What do you think the film might be trying to say about allowing young people to make their own choices?
- Diverse representation is important and Moana features not only diverse characters but diversity in its casting. The filmmakers have been criticized, however, for cultural appropriation and utilizing stereotypes in the film. How, then, do you think we should weigh the pros and cons of films like this?
How Far I’ll Go (music video) – YouTube video
What Pacific Islanders Want You to Know – BuzzFeed YouTube video [does contain some brief war images]