Funded! This project was successfully funded on December 21, 2012.

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Kūpuna documents the small Hawaiian town of La'ie through the experiences and collective memories of its elderly, indigenous residents.

(UPDATE: We are pleased to announce that we have a fiscal sponsor, so your contribution is now Tax Deductible!)

SHORT DESCRIPTION:

The small town of La’ie, on Oahu’s north shore, covers just 2.1 square miles. This rural community is home to the most visited tourist attraction in Hawaii, a top rated university, a spiritual center for a world-wide church, and numerous minority cultures. But as these diverse groups struggle to have their stories and interests represented, the aging descendants of those Hawaiian’s who first inhabited La’ie’s shores, are fading. In a documentary portrait of this unique place, these elders, or Kūpuna, relate the experiences of their lives and their memories of Oahu's "city of refuge" as their ancestors have done for millennia.

What People are Saying:

We're very much into our interactive docs here in Doc/Fest Towers, and this uses the form excellently to keep the memory of disappearing cultures and a slower pace of life alive. This is lovely in form and content.

Sheffield Doc/Fest - a top tier documentary film festival based in the UK

NEW $250 REWARD UPDATE:

Film photographer Jonathan Canlas has graciously donated 100 limited edition, signed, 16 x 20 prints of La'ie! They will be taken during his upcoming documentary photography trip in February (for this project), and will be selected from photos of the kupuna, La'ie residents, and iconic images from the town itself. There are only 100 available! Here are a couple images from his last trip to La'ie:

**Thanks for checking out my latest project! I'm an independent filmmaker and producer, and I'm back on Kickstarter to fund my second documentary project - Kūpuna - and this time it's interactive. My last project, The Elders, was funded here in 2010.

One of the main characters in that story was a woman named Louise who at the time was 94 years old. Her interview truly made the film what it is today and helped set my career on a more focused path, especially when she reminded me that everybody not only HAS a story, but everybody IS a story.

Two weeks ago, Louise passed away. As sad as I am to have lost a friend, I'm very grateful to have had the chance to spend time with her and others from her generation as they shared their stories - the result of which is a storytelling experience that continues to enrich the lives those who view it.

This project, Kūpuna (which means "respected elder" in Hawaiian), is an attempt to gather and share the history, stories, myths, and memories of a place and people from unlikely microcosm of the world, La'ie, Hawaii.

Our minimum goal on kickstarter is to raise $30,000 to cover 3 months of ongoing film production and to get web-development, animations, and motion graphics started for the interactive components. We're pushing to raise $50,000 on kickstarter so that with your help we have time and resources to gather as many stories as possible over a 6 month period. We have applied for additional funding for the project from private and public sources, but it is contingent on our ability to raise the first portion of the budget and to begin filming in early 2013.

You can spread the word via Facebook, twitter, or on your own blog or via email. Any amount helps - check out the rewards over on the right ---> if that helps motivate your involvement.  You can learn more about the project by reading below, or by visiting http://www.kupunainteractive.com

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Kūpuna is an interactive documentary portrait of a community as told through the lives, memories, and stories of elderly Hawaiians born and raised in the small town of La’ie, on the north shore of O’ahu. The project combines personal documentary portraits, oral histories, storytelling and performances, animations depicting important cultural myths, and interactive maps that contextualize significant, sacred, historical events, geographical places and events.

Kūpuna is made up of multiple visual and interactive storytelling components: interviews, performances, scenic footage, genealogies, archival footage and photos, as well as three animated shorts of important cultural myths. Primarily, the project will focus on the memories and oral histories of an informal kūpuna "council" that are regularly consulted by area religious, cultural, and civic leaders. While this group of elders did not build the town of La’ie - that honor goes to their parents and their grandparents - they are the respected stewards of the La’ie ahupua`a (triangle shaped territories of land from the mountain to the ocean that were given to Hawaiian chiefs in the early 1800s) as well as its dwindling parcels of kuleana land (sub plots of that territory that are still Hawaiian owned - much like in "The Descendents").

Having spent the last 150 years as gracious hosts, often taking a backseat to more outspoken or dominant minority cultural groups, the goal of Kūpuna is to put Hawaiian culture, the histories of La’ie, and its elderly stewards, at the center of the story.

Of particular interest for this project are a group of indigenous elders (in Hawaiian, respected elders in the community are called kūpuna), whose stories, knowledge, and wisdom are lost with their passing.

This generation of Hawaiians in La’ie have witnessed statehood, have lived through the dramatic growth and expansion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, watched and assisted as a university and cultural center were constructed by mostly immigrant volunteers.

They were on the rim of the Pacific theater during World War II, have seen military and US government expansion across their islands, have been leaders in education, church, community, and government, and have even advocated boldly in the sometimes tumultuous relationship with the land-holding entity of the church.

In the introduction to Gathering to La’ie recently published by the Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian And Pacific Studies, the authors note: “[We] want the story to be told as much as possible by those who experienced it ... We want them to speak for themselves. The reader must bear in mind that their descriptions are written through their cultural lens and may not represent the native Hawaiian point of view … However … their recollections and experiences were seldom written or recorded. That story is still waiting to be told."

Nathaniel Hansen, the film’s producer and director, will conduct a number of formal and informal interviews with each of the kūpuna, over a period of 4-5 months. He began this work during a pre-production visit in September 2012.

The content from these extensive interviews will help establish the history of the town, and its place in Hawaiian history and culture. The interviews and cultural gatherings that will be filmed will also examine the tender but sometimes tenuous interpersonal relationships held by this group of elders.

The interviews will cover a range of topics including local history both contemporary and ancient, personal memories and stories, myths, legends and folklore, as well as religious, community and family experiences.

By exploring the lives of La’ie’s elderly Hawaiian’s, the interactive experience will have a foundation from which it can successfully tell a more comprehensive La’ie-centered Hawaiian narrative. Supported with b-roll from the area, archival footage, photos, and maps, provided in conjunction with BYU-Hawaii’s extensive archives, and additional scenic footage, Kūpuna will provide a rich visual experience for viewers and users alike.

A NEW FORM OF STORYTELLING

Interactive documentaries are non-linear and exploratory in nature and, as the name implies, they’re interactive. Anytime a film is made, particularly a documentary, there are often many, many hours of footage that just don’t find their way into the 60 minute televised story or a feature-length film. Does this make that unused material any less interesting or important?

Imagine a storytelling experience that extends beyond the “big screen” or television, or one that starts with the "small screen." Imagine a story you could explore at your own pace with your iPad, tablet, or on your laptop in addition to experiencing a more traditional storytelling experience by watching the film on Netflix or on a DVD!

One thing about La'ie, is that everyone is connected, and the Kūpuna project will allow viewers to explore those connections and relationships in a way that has never been done before. Our development team is already working to create a web-based computer and tablet (iPad) experience that allows site visitors to explore the community (through detailed, custom maps, interactive genealogical charts, narration, census data, short videos and community profiles), and connect with the lives of its elderly residents.

Ultimately, the Kūpuna Interactive Documentary project will serve as a digital resource for future generations of Hawaii’s residents, but also as a means of connecting the larger and often transient La’ie community to this small but vitally important group of people whose rich experiences and stories are often lost with their passing. No effort has been made at this scale, to digitally record and interactively share the spirit of these aging Kūpuna.

Through the use of new technology, Kūpuna strives to make Hawaiian elders’ stories available to the community and the rising generation, encouraging trust among the community at large, working to become an online space where users can share stories from the past along with ideas for the future.

What is an interactive documentary? An interactive documentary is a transmedia project that exists across multiple platforms (iPad, DVD, desktop, mobile phone), and allows for a non-linear storytelling experience. Unlike linear/traditional documentaries--an experience viewed by a captive audience that encourages little participation--interactive documentaries encourage viewers to explore the stories and geography in their own unique way. Check out some of our favorite transmedia documentaries: Highrise: Out My Window, Welcome to Pine Point, Powering a NationLa Zone, Farewell ComradesMapping Main Street, and Bear 71.

Director’s Statement:

“Everybody and everything has a source. We all have a history of some kind. Everybody not only has a story, everybody is a story. You are creating your own story every day of your life, just by living.”

This remarkable statement was shared with me by my dear friend Louise, a 95 year old novelist from Waco, Texas. Louise was interviewed as part of my last film, The Elders, in which she is featured prominently, and her words have proved a guiding metaphor for my own work documenting people and their stories around the world. The Elders was funded on Kickstarter.com in May of 2010, and was a featured project, a project of the year runner up in the film category, and a segment of the film was featured in the 2011 Kickstarter film festival.

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I was invited to screen The Elders and to present a series of lectures at BYU-Hawaii. Given the profound impact Louise’s statement had on me, and the many stories that were shared with me by the 23 elders I interviewed for the film, I chose to lecture on the power and role of storytelling in our lives. After the lecture and screening I spoke to my friend, college Dean and Anthropologist, Dr. Phillip McArthur. He urged me to consider producing a project that would focus exclusively on the elders, or kūpuna, of La’ie. We talked at length about the subject, and he gave me a stack of books for reading. We agreed to keep in touch about the project.

Here it is, one year after that conversation, and I feel more strongly than ever that this story is one that needs to be told, and soon. Knowing there are a dozen or so kūpuna in La’ie who will not be with us in 3-5 years, I am currently raising funds for a groundbreaking interactive documentary project that will collect and share the stories of these elders, helping to paint an intimate portrait of this wonderfully complex town. I hope you’ll join me!

Nathaniel Hansen
Nathaniel Hansen

“Perhaps the most fragile and precious source of information available to us, and the one most often overlooked are our elders — kūpuna, those who stand at the source of knowledge (life’s experiences) ... [T]he voices of our elders, those who have lived through the histories that so many of us seek to understand, are silenced with their passing.”

Maly, Kepa and Onaona. He Mau Mo’olelo ‘Ohana: Traditions and historical recollections of the families of the land.


Visual Treatment:
Kūpuna is made up of multiple visual and storytelling components: interviews, performances, and three animated recreations. Primarily, the film will focus on the memories and oral histories of an informal kūpuna council that are regularly consulted by area religious, cultural, and civic leaders. While this group of elders did not build the town of La’ie - that honor goes to their parents and their grandparents - they are the respected stewards of the La’ie ahupua`a as well as its dwindling parcels of kuleana land. Having spent the last 150 years as gracious hosts, often taking a backseat to more outspoken or dominant cultural groups, the goal of Kūpuna is to put Hawaiian culture, the histories of La’ie, and its elderly stewards, at the center of the story. 

Nathaniel Hansen, the project's producer and director, will conduct a number of formal and informal interviews with each of the kūpuna, over a period of 4-6 months. He began this work during a pre-production visit in September 2012. The content from these extensive interviews will help establish the history of the town, and its place in Hawaiian history and culture. The interviews and cultural gatherings that will be filmed will also examine the tender but sometimes tenuous interpersonal relationships held by this group of elders.

The interviews will cover a range of topics including local history both contemporary and ancient, personal memories and stories, myths, legends and folklore, as well as religious and family experiences. By exploring in an exhaustive manner the lives of La’ie’s elderly Hawaiian’s, the film will have a foundation from which it can successfully tell a more comprehensive La’ie-centered narrative. Supported with b-roll from the area, archival footage provided in conjunction with BYU-Hawaii’s extensive archives, and additional scenic footage, Kūpuna will provide a rich visual experience.

Interviews:
Aesthetically speaking, all interviews will be shot with two cameras, specifically Canon C300/C500 and Zeiss Master Prime or CP.2 lenses (85mm and 50mm). Soft depth of field and attention to framing will help draw focus to the interviewee while keeping the location contextual. B-roll footage of each interviewee in their home, at work, and in the community will help support their interview footage. Some of the interviews will take place in or near the home of the subject, utilizing natural lighting. More formal interviews will be conducted at select locations (the PCC’s Hawaiian Village, or near one of La’ie’s two heiau (ancient Hawaiian worship sites, one of which is maintained by BYU-Hawaii), to be confirmed on the next R&D trip.

As Hawaiian culture is intimately connected to the landscape, great care will also be taken to document “place” both scenic and sacred. This imagery will add to the visual palette our team is working to create in order to enrich the experience for the viewer. B-roll footage from all parts of the La’ie aupua’a, from the tops of the mountains to the ocean, will help support the content of the interviews.

Performances:
As performance and storytelling are such vital components to Polynesian life, in addition to formal and informal interviews, the film will feature several of the kūpuna who are skilled performers as they re-tell stories that are relevant to La’ie and Hawaiian history.

Animations/Graphics:
Lastly, to provide macro-context to the stories that will be shared via interview and performance and to provide orientation for viewers not familiar with Hawaiian culture, Kūpuna will feature three short stylized animated films that recreate important myths to the region and to the town itself. Award-winning art director and animator Jeff Jeppesen will lead his team to create highly stylized depictions of these culturally significant stories including the legend of Maui, the legend of Hula, and the romance of La'ieikawai.

Characters:
The kūpuna from La’ie are diverse in their background and experience. They include a master fisherman, a kumu hula, a gifted genealogist and MC of the Merrie Monarch festival, an environmental activist and Hawaiian sovereignty advocate, to name a few. The following have agreed to participate in filming for the duration of the project:

Auntie Gladys Pualoa Ahuna
Auntie Kela Miller
Auntie Dawn Wasson
Auntie Ipo Thompson
Auntie Cici Fong
Uncle Miki Kaio
Uncle Ahi Logan
Uncle Cy Bridges
Uncle Samuel Kekaoha
Uncle Joseph Ah Quin

Throughout the filmmaking process, we anticipate that several of the kūpuna will emerge as leading voices that will ultimately guide the narrative. Three have already caught the attention of the director during his week-long visit in September, 2012: One is a kumu hula (a master hula teacher), another an activist and sovereignty advocate, and the third a renowned hula expert and Hawaiian genealogist. Each are active in their community, are articulate and passionate, and they’ve known each other all their lives. Two were childhood best of friends, but often find themselves on opposing sides in local civic and church disputes. Their interviews, interpersonal narratives, and vérité footage as they go about their daily lives, will help connect the viewer to the character and the world in which they live as they recount the history of La’ie.

ABOUT LA’IE

Laie has a population of just over 6,000 people. Approximately half of these residents are students at BYU-Hawaii, a highly ranked liberal arts college owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s also home to the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii’s most visited tourist attraction and a facility built in the 1960s to showcase the cultures of the pacific islands.

It’s a town rich with history and tradition both ancient and modern. In ancient times, the city was a safe haven under Hawaiian law for those who had committed crimes - if they could get there. During the Christian missionary expansion into the Pacific Islands during the 19th century, while many of the other communities of O’ahu had converted to the Methodist, Wesleyan, or Catholic faith, La’ie became a predominantly Mormon community and a town committed to helping immigrants and Mormon converts from around the pacific to learn what it was like to live in a “zion” society. Many who joined the Mormon church during the 19th century in Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, and other islands, came to La’ie first before making the pilgrimage to the Mormon church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

But in today’s world we witness the increasing intersection of global forces in the day-to-day life of local communities. This small town of La’ie, Hawai’i, on Oahu’s north shore, makes a compelling case study as a microcosm of cross-cultural (mis) understanding among diverse groups struggling to have their stories and interests represented: a worldwide church, a top-rated university, an underrepresented indigenous Hawaiian minority, diasporic Polynesians, and transient/displaced mainlanders, among others, all make up the local population. This ancient “city of refuge” is arguably one of the most culturally diverse and nuanced places on the planet.

Key Personnel Bios
Producer/Director/Editor: Nathaniel Hansen (MFA)
Producer: Phillip McArthur (PhD)
Co-Producer: Kali Fermantez (PhD)
Executive Producer: A. Richard Vial (JD)
Associate Producer: Kristal Williams (MFA)
Associate Producer: Matt Kester (PhD)
Associate Producer: Michelle Larson
Director of Photography: Jerry Thompson
Art Director, Illustrator & Motion Graphics Designer: Jeff Jeppesen, CASE
Technology Director: Robert Hall

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

There are many risks associated with documentary filmmaking, and almost without exception the scope and story morph as production begins in earnest. The paradox of outlining and pitching a documentary is that the filmmaker really has no earthly idea of what will unfold, and yet (if you've made it this far), I've just laid out a vision for how the project will go forward. It may take longer than we estimate to obtain the necessary footage we're seeking (4-5 months). It may take longer than we estimate to assemble the project together (6-8 months) and deliver a working prototype to our backers. It may not be well received when it's done. These are the challenges and realities of independent filmmaking today.

FAQ

  • We believe interactive storytelling goes beyond clicking play to watch a video or linking between websites. Visitors explore an interactive story on the web knowing full-well the experience has been curated, much like a museum.

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  • We have always understood the world around us through storytelling and through the communities in which we are raised. The Kūpuna project is about a specific community, La’ie, but at its core reflects the virtues and faults of communities to which we can all relate. Much like literature, drama, art, or film, we are afforded an opportunity to experience vicariously the lives, struggles, and successes of others. We believe that, in the case of Kūpuna, Hawaiian elders have stories and experiences that can enrich our lives for the better and are worth sharing with the world.

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  • Technology and the web allow us to engage with others from communities around the world, all from the comfort of our own home or living space. The Kūpuna project combines disparate forms of media (short video documentaries, archival photos and film, audio, photography, animation, data visualizations, etc.), to create an enhanced storytelling experience for those that visit the website.

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  • Interactive storytelling on the web is, we think, like the wild west of non-fiction filmmaking. There are very few rules, a lot of artists and filmmakers working to stake their claim, with unlimited virtual “land” up-for-grabs. It’s also an incredible space for innovation, where story, technology, and the arts collide. We don’t believe it’s the only way to tell a good story. But in some cases the restrictions of traditional filmmaking and distribution leave many stories untold, hence the search by filmmakers and technologists for other ways to share stories.The Internet provides a “hyper” or contextualized meeting ground (across time and space) for artistic endeavors among disparate communities. Yes, the technology is young, but we’re excited to be working with a blank canvas, with endless possibilities. Kūpuna will utilize cutting edge technologies and new forms of visual expression, but at the same time strive to remember — to document — the story of Hawaiian elders.

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  • As a team, we are currently in post-production on another interactive documentary called Hollow, about population loss in rural America. Directed by Elaine McMillion and funded via kickstarter, the Tribeca Film Institute, and the West Virginia Humanities Council, the project focuses on the impact of population loss in rural West Virginia, specifically in the communities of McDowell County. As the projects are quite similar in scope and content, we’ll be utilizing much of what we’ve learned during development to build and enhance the Kūpuna experience. For those that want a more technical answer, our code is event-driven, real-time, and modular. Our technology stack includes, among other technologies, node.js, web sockets, RESTful services, and HTML5 audio, video and animation.

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    A custom designed postcard from La'ie, Hawaii, sent to you during production. You'll also get early access to the beta version of the project.

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    HD download of The Elders + the 60 minute Kūpuna film + .mp3 download of both music scores + Beta access to the website/iPad app, postcard and thanks on website and in credits.

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    A DVD copy of The Elders (the director's film from 2012) + An archival print from the highly regarded BYU-Hawaii/La'ie archives dating back to the mid 1800s (options to be presented near delivery time), + DVD of Kūpuna, HD download of The Elders and the 60 minute documentary film Kūpuna + Beta access to the website/iPad app, postcard and thanks on website and in credits.

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    Signed, Limited Edition 16 x 20 Print of one of Jonathan Canlas' iconic La'ie photos. Backers at this level will be able to choose from a selection of photos provided by the photographer. All previous digital download and beta access rewards are included at this level.

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    Photo & Essay Book of La'ie and the North Shore by commissioned photographers, includes essays and stories from the kūpuna + an archival print from the highly regarded BYU-Hawaii/La'ie archives dating back to the mid 1800s (options to be presented near delivery time) + DVD of Kūpuna, HD download of The Elders and the 60 minute documentary film Kūpuna + .mp3 download of both music scores + Beta access to the website/iPad app, postcard and thanks on website and in credits.

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    We'll be partnering with local artisans to provide a custom handicraft from La'ie. It could be pottery, a tapestry, ornate floral weaving, or hand carved wooden bowls or traditional tools. Once funded, we will provide options from which you can choose and have customized. In addition you will receive the Photo & Essay Book La'ie and the North Shore by commissioned photographers, includes essays and stories from the kūpuna + an archival print from the highly regarded BYU-Hawaii/La'ie archives dating back to the mid 1800s (options to be presented near delivery time) + DVD of Kūpuna, HD download of The Elders and the 60 minute documentary film Kūpuna + .mp3 download of both music scores + Beta access to the website/iPad app, postcard and thanks on website and in credits.

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    Private screening of the film and guided interactive experience including dinner and Q&A with the director (limited to USA) + "Development Producer" credit + Photo and Essay Book + Archival print from the highly regarded BYU-Hawaii/La'ie archives dating back to the mid 1800s (options to be presented near delivery time) + DVD of Kūpuna, HD download of The Elders and the 60 minute documentary film Kūpuna + .mp3 download of both music scores + Beta access to the website/iPad app, postcard and thanks on website and in credits.

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    This reward is perfect for organizations who want to help a worthy project, but could also use something of tremendous value in return. For these contributors, my team will produce a short documentary about your organization that can be used for fundraising or marketing purposes. Your contribution gets our project off the ground, and in return I will pledge my time, equipment, and creative talents (not including travel related costs) to making a short documentary (3-5 min) of which we know you will be proud. This is well below market rate, and our work speaks for itself.

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    Once we wrap production (summer 2013), I will come and spend time (1-2 days) with a loved one of your choice.* We will document their life through interview, collect any photos you have or archival footage, and edit together a short film and provide for your family a DVD of all the extra footage including the full interview, uncut. This is a great reward for extended families that want to pool resources, and will provide lasting memories for generations to come. You will also receive VIP passes to the Polynesian Cultural Center and VIP passes to the premiere of the Kūpuna interactive project in La'ie. (travel not included) *Available to those living in the 48 states or in Hawaii. Sorry Alaska.

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Funding period

- (25 days)