Old world new ways


POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Herb Kawainui Kane is an artist of the old school. His paintings, largely inspired by Polynesian voyaging, are meticulous re-creations that are, at the same time, satisfying compositions in color, balance and flair. Kane is 81.





        » Online orders: www.voyagersthemovie.com for $17.95. The site also has background information on the film's creation.

» Other sites of interest: www.paulcsige.com and www.herbkaneart.com




Paul Csige is an artist for the digital age. He creates musical compositions and films that are arranged on a computer, billions of bits and bytes layered upon a hard disk. Csige—pronounced “;siege”;—is in his 20s.

Although they make an unlikely duo, their Big Island partnership has resulted in one of the most unusual Hawaii films ever seen.

“;Voyagers: The First Hawaiians,”; debuted last week at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. The DVDs sold out in minutes.

“;I think,”; mused Kane, “;that it works!”;


Composed entirely of Kane's artwork massaged through multiple layers in a process called 2.5D, and filmed with a moving camera in a process rightly called the “;Ken Burns Effect,”; “;Voyagers”; tells the story of how Hawaiians happened to come to this scattering of islands. It is based on Kane's 1977 book of the same title, which he created as a companion to the creation of voyaging canoe Hokule'a—which he also designed. Kane has mighty credentials in this area. But he's not a digital guru.

Csige, a Berklee College of Music composer and New York Film Academy graduate, had been “;a fan of Herb's artwork forever,”; he said. “;I'd seen it on TV and in books and was always so impressed. Then I got an opportunity to write an overture for the Kamuela Philharmonic, and we arranged to use his artwork as projections behind the orchestra. It was a big success.”;

Each man credits the other for the idea: Could the “;Voyagers”; book become a film?

“;It's certainly unique,”; said Kane. “;I've had people say they've never seen anything like it, certainly not on an extended basis. It took this gifted young man—he's young enough to be my grandson!—to carry it off. The kid is a genius!”;

There weren't enough paintings in “;Voyagers”; to sustain the 62-minute film, so Csige scanned and edited nearly 200 of Kane's works, including a dozen painted just for the production. Together they created a two-man production company, Guiding Star Pictures.


The 2.5D process required that the images be divided into as many as 20 layers, which meant that Csige spent long hours at his G5 Mac computer, dissecting and re-creating backgrounds in Photoshop, then editing in Final Cut Pro. The musical compositions were edited in Logic, another Mac program.

“;The melody sometimes came to me as the images were animated,”; said Csige. “;And sometimes something about the image suggested an instrument, and the composition followed the choice of instrument. For example, a bird flying alone seemed right for a nose flute or piccolo.”;

Every image in the film was painted by Kane. Csige single-handedly directed, edited and scored the film. They collaborated on the script. “;One guy said to me, 'I can't believe this is a two-man film,'”; said Kane. “;He said if Walt Disney had done it, it would have used a hundred people and cost millions.”;

Talented as these two guys are, they still needed help. The narration is handled by local actor Dennis Evangelista of Waikoloa. Musician Anthony Natividad essayed the Hawaiian nose flute, the 'ukeke or stringed mouth harp, and gnuru, a Maori nose flute. Kumu hula Larry Kahekili Ursua with the aid of Hawaiian historian Danny Akaka Jr., worked on the Hawaiian translations, performed chants and played percussion.

Non-Polynesian music was recorded at Csige's Kaloko Mauka studio in Kona, using singers, violins and cello.

Now comes the hard part: getting people to see it.

“;We're hoping that it will be picked up by film festivals and maybe by Hawaii Public Television,”; said Csige. “;Distribution is going to be interesting!”;