Māori People Find Representation in Moana

A new translation of the Disney film Moana has been released in New Zealand. The film was translated by New Zealand native who worked on the original English-language version, Taiki Waititi, and his sister Tweedie Waititi. The film screened for free at 30 theaters around New Zealand in conjunction with the annual Māori language week. All showings of the film were entirely in Māori without English subtitles.

The film centers around a Polynesian princess named Moana, who travels the sea on an adventure to help bring peace to her homeland. The film borrowed many Māori mythologies in the narrative and sparked debate about cultural sensitivity. By showing the film in the native language of the people being represented in the film, it extends their own narrative to themselves, rather than solely an English-speaking audience.

The former head of New Zealand’s Māori Language Commission, Mr. Pipiri, told the New York Times, “There’s no other film in the Maori language that would attract whanau [families] and kids like that.” There is expected to be a DVD available in Māori for families wanting to enjoy the film at home.