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“In today’s world we witness the increasing intersection of global forces in the day-to-day life of local communities, and interactive documentaries are very well-positioned to explore these complicated but important stories.”
Nathaniel Hansen, Author, in Kūpuna press release
On the north side of the Hawaiian island of O’ahu there is a small village of 6,000 people. Many residents are students at BYU-Hawaii, a highly ranked, Mormon-run institution. Others are migrants from across Polynesia, or displaced ‘mainlanders’ seeking a quiet harbor. A small minority are native Hawaiians, who are most closely connected to the ancient origins of the village, renowned in ancient times for offering safe haven to criminals and others fleeing persecution. This is La’ie.
The small town’s culture is unique amongst the Hawaiian culture, shaped by historical events and religious movements. But while the culture is embedded in the quickly aging local population, the forces of globalization are threatening to erase La’ie’s story. Documentary filmmaker Nathaniel Hansen wanted to preserve it before it was gone.
Hansen, the creator of linear documentary The Elders, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for an interactive documentary project that would act as an expansive community archive and an immersive narrative experience. The result was Kūpuna, a varied look at the community through interviews, participatory filmmaking, soundscapes, images, animation, performance, and data visualization. The project is built for tablet, giving viewers an individualized and intimate way in to this community portrait.