Moana star is heading to Samoa

By Deidre Fanene ,

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MOANA MOMENT: Seiuli Dwayne Johnson and Aulii Cravalho who is arriving in Samoa tomorrow for a special screening of Moana at Apollo Cinemas.

MOANA MOMENT: Seiuli Dwayne Johnson and Aulii Cravalho who is arriving in Samoa tomorrow for a special screening of Moana at Apollo Cinemas. (Photo: AP)

Seiuli Dwayne Johnson might not be coming but the Apollo Cinemas will still host a star-studded screening of Disney’s popular cartoon, Moana, tomorrow night.

The voice of Moana, Auli’i Cravalho, will lead a team from the movie arriving in Samoa tomorrow morning for the special screening to be attended by invitees only.

The blue carpet event comes a few weeks after the movie was released, filling up the local cinema during every screening. Also arriving for the event is producer Osnat Shurer, directors Ron Clements and John Musker.

Local organizer of the event, Dionne Fonoti, said the special screening would be followed by a Question and Answer session.

Cravalho plays the ferociously unafraid title character in her first-ever film role, grounding a heroine who sails across the ocean alone, commands a demi-god to do her bidding and battles legendary beasts. 

Speaking to Harper's Bazaar, the 16-year-old said she didn’t initially audition for the role of Moana because the main auditions were happening during her freshman year of high school. 

“Freshman year of high school is confusing as it is, and I decided I was going to focus on school,” she said. 

“As it turned out, though, my friends and I decided to put together a totally separate audition to become the entertainment for a non-profit event. We put together this awesome a cappella mash-up of songs we love, with beatboxing and harmonies—and we didn't get in. But the woman who was going through those auditions, Rachel Sutton, was also the casting director for Disney, so she looked at our audition and asked if I wanted to try out for Moana.

“I was told to prepare 30 seconds of my favorite Disney song and they also gave me some sides to read for the audition. I say "sides" now because I know what they are, but before this I was like, "Oh, I think they missed an 'L.'" 

“I was thinking of "slides," like maybe that was a better word for it. Before [the audition] I had no idea what I was doing. 

“I still remember how confused I was about that whole auditioning process. And slating! Slating was the most confusing thing to me. 

“I had to do it like five times. I was like, "What do you mean, I have to say my name and my height? I don't know, mommy, how tall am I?!" I was so confused but I had a lot of fun with it. They told me to sing whatever I wanted, so I sang my 30 seconds of my favorite Disney song—"I See the Light" [from Tangled]—as well as a few Hawaiian songs, and I shared that I love dancing hula and that I'm very connected to my culture and basically best friends with the ocean because I'm a klutz on land and had to do only water sports. I just gave it my best in the audition and it worked really well.”

The rest as they say is history.

Asked how much of herself she sees in Moana, she said: “I've grown up on an island all my life—so has she—and we're both deeply connected to our culture. 

“I go to an all-Hawaiian school, so even the mythology and the folklore of Maui is something I grew up with. I love that Disney has taken the time and effort to do research about us and extensive research about our culture and find those wonderful stories about Maui. And I'm connected to Moana through my age; my 16th birthday was the day before our film was released. Her journey is something I feel as well—that journey to find yourself. It's a recurring theme I think everyone can really take away [from].” Cravalho also paid tribute to Seiuli Dwayne’s role.

“Dwayne [Johnson] actually told me to be myself. I feel as though that's something we hear every day; I know my mom has been telling me that since the day I was born. 

“But hearing it from him, someone who has had so much success? It blew my mind and warmed my heart at the same time. He's someone that everyone in the islands has looked up to at some point, because he started from the same place we did and he's gone so far.”

So what is her advice to the young people who are aspiring to be Moana?

“Go on that journey to find yourself,” she said. 

“Please understand that it's completely normal and completely necessary. I'm not saying you need to journey across hundreds of miles of ocean, but taking that time to find yourself is incredibly important. As a young teen, I really connect to that. In this day and age, we need more heroes and heroines. Be the hero or heroine of your own story, of your own life.”

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