Islandmen reborn – capturing a Blasket gathering
A film about two American cousins who’d previously never met, on an island they’ve never been to – why does the story of ‘The Crest’ speak so vividly to us all?
Denis DK Kane and Andrew Jacob prepare to take to the sea while filming the documentary The Crest at the Blaskets in Co Kerry. Photograph: Valerie O'Sullivan
There’s a treacherous stretch of the Atlantic that flows between the mainland and the Great Blasket island. Lives have been lost and journeys ended but it’s a place where magic happens too. Sixty years after the evacuation of the Blasket islands and the week of the Blaskets and West Kerry Gathering, two surfers, great-great-grandsons of Padraig Ó Cathain, the King of the Blaskets, are chasing waves in this most famous of Irish waters - and chasing them in turn is a US documentary crew, itself infused with the DNA of the island.
But this is no twee Irish-American romance. At the helm is director Mark Covino, whose latest documentary, A Band Called Death, the story of a 1970s African-American Detroit punk band, is about to get its theatrical release across the US. With the art of an outsider’s eye he’s shaping a very local tale called The Crest.
The two surfing cousins, Dennis DK Kane (25) and Andrew Jacob (33), hadn’t met before the trip. DK runs a surf board company in California where he shapes and builds boards. Andy is a commerical fisherman who lives to surf in New England where painting surf boards is his passion.Their grandfathers had been brothers and best friends but, seperated by their lives on either side of America, the cousins only met for the first time in Dingle. It was an awkward introduction, all caught on camera. But the boys hit it off and the spark that the producers were searching for took hold.
More family members, John and Eliza Kane, are producing The Crest, and it was they who wanted to forge a story from the island - but they wanted to make something bigger than just their own family tale. They see a hunger for identity in the US right now that’s greater than ever. Particularly among the second and third generations. “We are American through and through but there’s this layered generation that fosters a feeling of ‘I want to go to that place’. People want to find out where their family have come from,” Eliza explains. “And it’s this we’re trying to capture. This search for connection.”
Andy and DK have made connections all over the Dingle peninsula it seems, loving the hospitality, the occasion of the Gathering, the freedom that they are living. They spent most of the previous night locked into an unnamed pub in Dingle town, grabbing three hours sleep before our meeting in the Great Blasket centre at Dún Chaoin. The island is behind us as we talk. A hare runs across the grass. Birds fly in the air and the sun shines hard upon the sculpture of the fisherman outside. DK says this trip has been the single most exciting experience of his life. He’s bursting with pride and his tales of his few days with his new brother-in-arms trip over themselves as he tells them.