Video tells isles' evolutionary tale


POSTED: Monday, April 06, 2009

A 20-minute documentary video, “;Hawaii — A Long Story Short,”; observing Darwin's 200th birthday this year, was one University of Hawaii student's way of communicating science to the public.

When graduate student Luc Rougee, a filmmaking enthusiast, received an e-mail from a teacher about a graduate course on science documentary filmmaking, he said, “;It was pretty much exactly what I planned on doing.”;

The film's recent premier on “;Darwin Day”; was “;a nice coincidence,”; Eric Gaidos, geology and geophysics professor, said after showing the film to a full room of scientists, students and others at Hamilton Library.

“;It was a very appropriate video to show on a very appropriate day,”; said Rougee, 27, who is working on his doctorate at the Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Kewalo Marine Laboratory.

Seven other students — Cheryl Geslani, Kelvin Gorospe, Mary Ikagawa, Shimona Quazi, Lora Reeve, Derek Skillings and Elly Vaes — also produced the documentary. Lucy Marcus was teaching assistant.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was in mind as Kayla Rosenfeld of Hawaii Public Radio narrated the dramatic story of the chain of Hawaiian Islands — volcanoes “;born from the bottom of the sea.”;

Freelance musician Michael Tanenbaum provided original music for the production.

Gaidos said the documentary course was about telling the story of the Hawaiian Islands “;and, in fact, the many fascinating and awesome stories that science can relate about our world.”;

“;Scientists must step a little further forward to help those stories, especially now that such incredibly enabling video technology is available. ... And here in Hawaii we can work with that most photogenic of actors: nature herself,”; Gaidos said.

The film described the destruction and rebirth of the islands over millions of years through volcanism, how one of the most isolated places on earth came to have animal and plant species, and how they evolved over time.

Without Darwin, “;We would not appreciate the 'grandeur in this view of life,' to use Darwin's own words — the beauty and amazement of how all of life developed through natural processes,”; wrote the group Defend Science in a statement about Darwin Day.

Darwin was born in February 1809, and his seminal work, “;On the Origin of Species,”; was published in November 1859 — nearly 150 years ago.

Rougee said he learned a lot from “;The Aloha Project,”; as the young filmmakers called it, and he was pleased with their creation. “;I thought it was well done. The story flowed well.”;

Tanenbaum's score “;was fantastic,”; he said. “;We were very fortunate he was willing to donate time and music to the project.”;

Gaidos said many people and agencies contributed video, images or assistance for the project. It was sponsored in part by the UH Sea Grant College Program and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

The DVD is available for education and public outreach by calling Gaidos at 956-7897 or e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).