Rocky, road to Dublin

Peter Lennon’s “Rocky, Road to Dublin” is a prime example of
a documentary challenging not only social norms but the far greater task of
bringing Irelands cultural isolationism, Gaelic and clerical traditionalism
into public view.

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Peter Lennon grew up in the 30’s in the aftermath of the
independence of Ireland. People were told they were the sons and daughters of
heroes and their new role was that of gratitude.1
It was seen as treason to question the society that the old guerrilla heroes
had fought to create, and it was this lack of questioning that led Ireland down
a dark path. Peter Lennon would later travel to France in his adult years and
grew to love the French new wave of cinema and it inspired him throughout the
making of his documentary. After living in Paris for decades working as a
journalist critiquing films, Lennon decided to revisit his home country in 1967
to create a film looking at the state of Ireland. He captured Ireland on the
cusp of enormous social changes but still mired in a regressive,
semi-theocratic mentality that would later erupt in repeated church scandals.2

It examined the contemporary state of the Republic of
Ireland, posing the question “What you do with your revolution once you’ve got
it?”.

Using seemingly innocent interviews we see, Lennon has many
of the Irish establishments

Blends interviews with writers Sean O’Faolain and Conor
Cruise O’Brien, a spokesman for the Gaelic Athletic Association, film director
John Huston, an editor of The Irish Times, a member of the censorship board, theatre
producer Jim Fitzgerald, and a young Catholic priest, Father Michael Cleary. Brainwashed
school kids admit casually that because of Adam’s sin their ‘intellect was
darkened, their will weakened, and their passions inclined them to evil”.  A patriotic sportsman confirms that any member
of their organisation, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), who played a
‘foreign’ game such as cricket, rugby or soccer would be banned for six months.
University students tell how they were not allowed to discuss politics on
campus. The number of banned writers in Ireland included Capote, Hemingway,
Orwell, Salinger and Wells, as well as the Irish Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan,
Sean O’Casey and even George Bernard Shaw.

Although he had seen the Guardian pieces, the Archbishop
agreed to my request to follow a priest for two days, obviously believing that
the singing and dancing 60s swinging priest he produced would win over the
prodigal son.3

Released in the late 60’s, this documentary shattered
Irelands complacent view of itself as a liberated country.

The Irish establishment was frosty towards the film. Irish
cinemas wouldn’t screen it, RTE didn’t broadcast it, and it didn’t get a full
release until 2006. Even so in later years Peter Lennon’s documentary would
become a grim reminder of Ireland trading the oppression of the British, for
that of the church. Selected by the Cannes Festival to represent Ireland in
1968 and immediately shown across Europe and North America. When the Cannes
festival collapsed, the student uprising under siege by the riot police adopted
Rocky Road and distributed it around the Sorbonne faculties. Peter Lennon
himself had this to say: “The French saw it as a film, the Irish as an
insult.” In later years Peter Lennon’s documentary would become a
grim reminder of Ireland trading the oppression of the British, for that of the
church.

The unfortunate truth is that it was swept under rug but today,
in the west, we have free rein to express ourselves and through the guise of
the internet it is made far easier to have these documentaries gain
recognition.

1
Roacky rd qoute

2 http://icarusfilms.com/if-dub

3

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