Peter Lennon’s Rocky, Road to Dublin is a prime example of adocumentary challenging not only social norms but the far greater task ofbringing Irelands cultural isolationism, Gaelic and clerical traditionalismPeter Lennon grew up in the 30’s in the aftermath of the independenceof Ireland. People were told they were the sons and daughters of heroes andtheir new role was that of gratitude.1It was seen as treason to question the society that the old guerrilla heroeshad fought to create, and it was this lack of questioning that led Ireland downa dark path. Peter Lennon would later travel to France in his adult years andgrew to love the French new wave of cinema and it inspired him throughout the makingof his documentary. After living in Paris for decades working as a journalist critiquingfilms, Lennon decided to revisit his home country in 1967 to create a filmlooking at the state of Ireland.
He captured Ireland on the cusp of enormoussocial changes but still mired in a regressive, semi-theocratic mentality thatwould later erupt in repeated church scandals.2It examined the contemporary state of the Republic of Ireland,posing the question “What you do with your revolution once you’ve got it?”.Blends interviews with writers Sean O’Faolain and ConorCruise O’Brien, a spokesman for the Gaelic Athletic Association, theatreproducer Jim Fitzgerald, a member of the censorship board, an editor of TheIrish Times, film director John Huston, and a young Catholic priest, FatherMichael Cleary. Brainwashed school kids admit casually that because of Adam’ssin their ‘intellect was darkened, their will weakened, and their passionsinclined them to evil”. A patrioticsportsman confirms that any member of their organisation, the Gaelic AthleticAssociation (GAA), who played a ‘foreign’ game such as cricket, rugby or soccerwould be banned for six months.
University students tell how they were notallowed to discuss politics on campus. The number of banned writers in Irelandincluded Capote, Hemingway, Orwell, Salinger and Wells, as well as the IrishSamuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Sean O’Casey and even George Bernard Shaw. Although he had seen the Guardian pieces, the Archbishopagreed to my request to follow a priest for two days, obviously believing thatthe singing and dancing 60s swinging priest he produced would win over theprodigal son.3Released in the late 60’s, this documentary shatteredIrelands complacent view of itself as a liberated country.The Irish establishment was frosty towards the film. Irishcinemas wouldn’t screen it, RTE didn’t broadcast it, and it didn’t get a fullrelease until 2006.
Even so in later years Peter Lennon’s documentary wouldbecome a grim reminder of Ireland trading the oppression of the British, forthat of the church. Selected by the Cannes Festival to represent Ireland in1968 and immediately shown across Europe and North America. When the Cannesfestival collapsed, the student uprising under siege by the riot police adoptedRocky Road and distributed it around the Sorbonne faculties. Peter Lennonhimself had this to say: “The French saw it as a film, the Irish as aninsult.” In later years Peter Lennon’s documentary would become agrim reminder of Ireland trading the oppression of the British, for that of thechurch.The unfortunate truth was that it was swept under rug but today,in the west, with have greater free rein to express ourselves and through theguise of the internet it is made far easy to have these documentaries……1Roacky rd qoute2 http://icarusfilms.com/if-dub3