Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
181: Moana The Film – A Critique: Kalani Tonga & Moana Uluave-Hafoka

181: Moana The Film – A Critique: Kalani Tonga & Moana Uluave-Hafoka

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints boasts a large Pasifika membership, both in the United States and throughout the Pacific Islands.   So when ‘Moana’, Disney’s first major motion picture based in the Pacific was released, there was plenty of chatter in Mormon circles about the film, its motifs, and themes.  More than anything, however, the film captured a feminine character and capacities so present in Pasifika mythologies but seldom observed or acknowledged in Mormon contexts.  In this episode Kalani Tonga (Tongan), Moana Uluave-Hafoka (Tongan) and Gina Colvin (Māori) discuss the film and the deeper significance it has for them as a reclamation of the lost language of the Polynesian/Pasifika feminine.


  1. Azul

    I am a white, middle-age, Mormon woman who is undergoing a faith crisis & I didn’t think this podcast was off topic at all. I thoroughly enjoyed the content and eye-opening discussion these ladies provided about their cultures, opinions, and the movie. The podcast wasn’t on the sentiments in America, and to think that ones feelings as an American need to be addressed and coddled in a discussion like this just illustrates the egocentric, white supremacist thinking that Gina and other minoritory and marginalized groups are trying to bring to light. I’m surprised that after listening to Gina’s podcast for years, that this message hasn’t been more clear to Michelle. I don’t want to be confrontational or rude, but I think Michelle’s comments about this particular podcast and it’s participants are the offensive ones. Gina, you are a God send to humanity! Keep up the fight to make the world and the people in it better!

  2. A Happy Hubby

    Well ladies, you made my day. My wife somewhat dragged me to go see this at the theater a few months back.

    I was worried that I was going to hear a critical review of how I wasn’t supposed to enjoy of this because it was all bunch of imperialistic perspective and culturally offensive. I was coming into this podcast with an, “sigh, OK, you may not like this as a white, middle aged, American man, but to grow in your understanding of others perspectives it is good for you to hear.” I was pleasantly surprised that it by and large got a thumbs up from you 3 ladies. I am glad in that I liked it, but also that it seems Disney did do their cultural homework and didn’t offend 1/2 the Pacific.

  3. Heinz

    I enjoyed this podcast. I wonder if you were aware that a Mormon from Farmington Utah David Derrick Jr, whose mother is of Pacific island heritage, had a big role in the making of the movie Moana. It would have been interesting to hear your comments had you been aware of that connection.

  4. Ben

    The screenplay for Moana was written by Jared Bush, none other than Lester Bush’s son. You’ll see his name in the credits. He also co-wrote the screenplay for Zootopia.

    This is the son of the same Lester Bush who wrote the pivotal 1973 essay on the Priesthood Ban. That essay was later revealed, by President Kimball’s son, to have greatly influenced the prophet’s views on the origin and standing of the racial ban.

    My sense is that the Bushes are no longer practicing Mormons, but I wonder if their family has ties to the Pacific via missionary work, or if their sensitivities were heightened based on Lester’s work in the Church.

    I’d have loved to have heard your thoughts.

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