County of Production
History of Water
Leon Kavanagh (Actor), Noelle Luque (Actor), Dean Kavanagh (Actor), John Allen (Actor)
A young man films his family to better understand them and as a result is destroyed by them.
Filmed between 2011 and 2012 on an array of cameras and a zero-budget, Dean Kavanagh's debut feature History of Water examines the straining relationship between an amateur filmmaker and his family. Through a poetic web of interconnected moments a young man instigates a series of awkward fictions between family and friends while documenting his domestic life. The first in a 'domestic trilogy' of feature films staged around the east coast of Ireland and featuring a cast comprised entirely of family and friends, Kavanagh's slow and atmospheric feature debut explores themes of memory and image-making, while also proposing cinema and his isolated, coastal location as sites of spectral exchange.
The title of the film refers to the ability of water molecules to collect particles of all matter in close contact. In reference to this, filmmaker and film critic Maximilian Le Cain writes in the 9th edition of Experimental Conversations: "this encapsulates his cinema better than anything: a fluid, mutable, translucent, reflective, distorting non-human agent of memory that runs throughout his films, often soaking his actors. Distilled memory."
In an interview for Film Panic magazine in 2019 Kavanagh writes: "In 2011 I was working at a small, commercial film studio with access to space and equipment, and so I decided to shoot my first feature film there after hours. For History of Water I would once again utilise family and friends as performers in a fictional reality-play where everything is both real and imagined. For me, the membrane between documentary and fiction has always been permeable. It is this membrane that I am most interested in; the line between past and present, the real and the imagined, and the frailty of memory which sinuously holds everything in order. History of Water stems from this directly and reflects on a childhood of amateur movie-making."
The film premiered at Spectacle Theater in New York City in 2014 as part of a programme dedicated to Irish Underground cinema curated by Donal Foreman.