Eleanor McSherry was at the Kerry Film Festival for opening night film, The Crest, a story of family, immigration and the value of tradition and culture. which follows two descendants of an Irish King who meet for the first time in Ireland.
This screening was in the largest screen of the cinema, cinema one. There was a very large crowd, as expected for this one, so seating was at a premium for the opening Night film. The film was introduced by Maeve McGrath, Kerry Film Festival’s hardworking Artistic Director, who expressed her joy at the film, which was partly shot in Kerry, being screened at the festival. She also welcomed the team behind the film who were in the audience.
Butter Flavored Films produced this narrative surf documentary, which, according to its synopsis features “two cousins who grow up on opposite sides of America, both surfers and both unaware of the other’s existence, discover they are both descendants of An Ri, the last King of the Blasket Islands, a collection of rocky islands off the western-most point of Ireland, surrounded by treacherous ocean and once home to a community of people whose culture was untouched by outside influence. The cousins meet for the first time in Ireland on a quest to explore their shared heritage, learn what has been passed down to them from those who came before, and to surf the waters of their ancestors”.
Mark Covino directed the film, whuch has garnered a string of awards and acclaim on the film festival circuit, having co-directed A Band Called Death, which won an audience award at SXSW (among others) and was well reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Rolling Stone, and The Huffington Post.
Surfing has become one of the biggest growing sports in Ireland today. You cannot pass a beach on the West coast without spotting the hundreds of wet-suited teens bobbing in water. It attracts thousands of tourists every year from all over the globe. This is what makes the opening film of the Kerry Film Festival so special. Its story is so timely in its content to the Ireland of today and yet it tells a story that will resonate in every corner of this island, the story of emigrants coming home.
This family’s story is wonderfully told with the use of voice-over, interviews, historical pieces, extracts from the great Blasket writers and at its heart, a personal family reunion. At times you kind of feel that you are imposing on this family’s story, that we should not be feeling what they are feeling rediscovering their heritage, connecting back with the island, its people, their people. This is nothing new to Ireland, we have many stories like this, but what is unique and different about this story is Dennis and Andrew’s shared love of surfing.
Dennis Kane and Andrew Jacob both have a love for the sea, surfing, family and a land neither of them has ever seen. This yearning to learn more about who they are centres on their shared family history and stories of their ancestor who was the King of the Blaskets and his son, who was a fiddler. The story begins with their discovery of each other and moves onto The Gathering, an Irish Government Initiative in 2013, where an opportunity is presented to travel back and reunite with other members of the extended family in Kerry and to visit the Blasket Islands, off the coast of Ireland.
They learn a lot about their ancestors on the way, as do the audience, their life on the Islands and what forced them to leave. The guys also get many opportunities to surf and there is some fantastic footage of the Kerry coastline which is awe-inspiring. This documentary is a real education but told in a heart-warming personal way. It’s hard not to reveal the whole story to show how moving and wonderful this documentary is… you will just have to go and see it for yourself to get the real emotion behind the film.
The production values were relatively good. I admire this crew as I’d say it was a difficult shoot, due to some very dodgy terrain, bad roads and the weather, which would have played a huge factor here. They used a mix of cameras and style of shots. For example, chasing a bunch of surfers across fields on the Blaskets and filming from boats was shot in a rough guerrilla, old-school documentary style. Interviews, which were authoritative and well-researched, were shot in the classic interview mode with the subject static and centred. The rest was more observational in style with iconic wide and aerial shots from, I’m presuming, a drone, which produced some beautiful establishing shots. There was also some go-pro style shots from the surf boards, for that close-up feel. Though, at times the shots were a little rough, shaky and on the odd occasion out of focus, also lighting was ever so slightly off in some of the interviews but if you weren’t looking for it, to be honest, you wouldn’t have noticed. The views of the Kerry coastline were amazing and the surf shots were inspired. They have done a fantastic job and should be really proud.
It was a perfect start to the festival; a surfing emigrant documentary shot in Kerry and in a small part America, screening at the Kerry Film Festival, a no-brainer really. It is a very relatable movie and should be a must for any Irish person, home and abroad. What is surprising is why aren’t we seeing more films like this one. We should be documenting the Ireland of today for the next generations. What we also have to ask ourselves is why these guys had to crowd fund? Why did they not get better financial support from our government or any Irish government agency? It’s great falling over ourselves for Star Wars but it’s the hundreds of independent films like this, that cost so much less and have such little private support, that need our help too. This film is going to do a lot for our tourist industry.
The Crest screened on Thursday, 19th of October, 2017 at Cinema Killarney as part of the Kerry Film Festival (19 – 22 October 2017)
Further information: http://crestmovie.com/