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Polynesians React To Moana’s Oscar Nominations And Soundtrack

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With the start of a new spring semester at Utah State University, dance practice for the Polynesian Student Union’s annual luau has begun. As dancers sway to the drum’s beat and practice chanting, members of PSU’s executive council and other Polynesians at the university gathered to critique the music in Disney’s newest blockbuster film “Moana”.  

The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences announced “Moana” was nominated for two Oscars including Best Original Song for “How Far I’ll Go” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Isabel Forinash, treasurer for PSU, said the Oscar nominations aren’t a surprise, though she contends the movie’s iconic theme song “How Far I’ll Go” is very “disneyfied.”

“The music was weak is what I like to say,” said Forinash, who is Hawaiian. “In Polynesian culture, the music is strong.”

Kiora Hopkins, who is Tongan, said the music in “Moana” wasn’t very Polynesian and lacked soul.

“Her theme song should’ve been more Polynesian with more of the Polynesian hints behind it,” said Hopkins, who is the secretary of PSU. “It seemed too American for me or too palangi.”

Fa‘afota Mulitalo Rasmussen, a recruitment specialist at USU, said the music was authentic.

“It was just so cool,” said Rasmussen, who is Samoan. “Because everything I’ve listened to growing up sounded exactly like what they were portraying.”

“Disneyfied” or not, all three appreciate the movies message.

“I thought it was pretty cool that Moana was portrayed as a leader,” Forinash said.

Hopkins agrees that “Moana” was a pretty good film.

“I just loved it,” Rasmussen said. “I think it was motivating and empowering and beautiful.”