YouTube screen capture
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's portrayal of the demi-god Maui in Disney's Moana is not without troubles.

VIDEO: Indigenous New Zealand Students Respond to Disney’s Upcoming Film Moana

Vincent Schilling

Daniel Hernandez, (Mayan / K'iche') is living and studying in Auckland, New Zealand, where he is part of a mentorship program for Indigenous students of Aotearoa and the Pacific.

Though some comments from New Zealand Indigenous communities have supported Disney’s upcoming film Moana and the portrayal of Maui, Hernandez says it is a sensitive issue.

See Related: The Rock’s Husky Polynesian God from Disney’s Moana Gets Mixed Reviews

“It’s because of the diversity that is being represented and the portrayal of Maui, who is not a fantasy character, but a real ancestor who many people across the Pacific trace their genealogy back to,” he says.

Hernandez created a mini documentary regarding the viewpoint of New Zealand students. According to the video's description on YouTube, the mini-doc is about a group of Auckland Uni Students, Tuākana Arts Mentors, and scholars who share a variety of views in response to trailers of Disney's Moana. 

Hernandez also spoke with ICTMN.

What message were you hoping to share with the world?

The hope with sharing this project is in demonstrating an example of bridging the different elements of our world from personal experience and identity to cultural knowledge to Western education, together that’s a powerful mix. The portrayals of confident and intelligent people who know who they are, value their heritage, and can articulate it clearly I feel also helps disrupt some of the negative stereotypes about Indigenous people.

What is your elevator pitch as to what this doc is?

Maui is a trickster who often used wit and intelligence to overcome great foes. In the spirit of Maui we are talking about something that many people are engaged with and interested in (e.g., Disney), and using that platform to share what we feel are important Indigenous stories and perspectives about representation, identities, and knowledge’s.

What comments stick out to you?

Hmmm. That’s a hard one, I see all of the participants as whānau (family/friends). . . I’d say they’re all really great and rich perspectives. Some that help give an overview of the film would be:

Logan, who co-organized the project and shares what he’s learned from his studies in Anthropology. His studies show that his ancestors had great knowledge and courage in order to navigate the largest body of water on earth.

Zoë, who offers great insights as to how the film can be made relevant to teach younger generations the significance of different cultural traditions and their meanings such as tattoo’s and the importance of women.

Te Whainoa shares some really rich insights coming from his knowledge in the Māori language and stories about Maui that he’s learned in his upbringing.  

Toni has great energy and conveys the significance of identity and heritage.

If someone wants more information about you or others in this project – where do they go?

Check out the video, or if someone would like to contact us directly they can email us at [email protected].


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Armede's picture
Submitted by Armede on
Disney never ceases to amaze me. They continually get away with cartooning Indigenous culture, racist stereotypes and all, and then selling it back to us. "Indian In The Cupboard" is an old saying just like "N" in the woodpile" and "Chinaman under the bed". All three were about men of color hiding in the cupboard, woodpile or under the bed to steal from the white man. To steal the white man's most precious possession - "white women". I was blown away when the movie came out with that title "Indian In The Cupboard" and no one said a thing. Not to mention 11 year old Pocahantas being turned into a nubile teenager. Amazing. We are so not real to them.