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Controversial Portrait of Ireland in the 1960s
to Screen at UW-Eau Claire Nov. 9-12

RELEASED: Oct. 26, 2006

scene from "Rocky Road to Dublin"EAU CLAIRE — "Rocky Road to Dublin," a biting, little-seen portrait of Ireland in the 1960s, will screen Nov. 9-12 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The last film screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the tumultuous year of 1968, the documentary will be presented at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday in Davies Theatre.

Encouraged by the controversy he had stirred with a series of newspaper articles he had written in Paris, Dublin-born journalist Peter Lennon decided to revisit his native country in 1967 to make a film assessing the state of the nation. He captured a society characterized by a stultifying educational system, a morally repressive and politically reactionary clergy, a myopic cultural nationalism, and a government that knew no boundary between church and state.

"'Rocky Road to Dublin' has been down a bumpy path," wrote the BBC. "Made in 1968, its expos of a repressed Republic was banned for more than three decades in Ireland after only one screening. It's not hard to see why the film caused such a fuss. Its uncompromising tone is set by Lennon's opening voice-over, which declares an attempt to explore 'the plight of a community which survived nearly 700 years of English occupation and then nearly sank under the weight of its own heroes and clergy.'"

Featuring the inspired photography of French cinematographer Raoul Coutard, "Rocky Road to Dublin" captures an Ireland on the brink of enormous social changes. Amid scenes of everyday Irish life on the streets, in the classroom, at pubs, sporting events, dance halls, and a lively discussion among Trinity College students Lennon blends interviews with writers Sean O'Faolain and Conor Cruise O'Brien, theater producer Jim Fitzgerald, an editor of The Irish Times, and filmmaker John Huston. In a striking example of the film's unwitting prescience, one of its most colorful figures young Father Michael Cleary, "Ireland's singing priest" was later revealed to have fathered two children with his 17-year-old housekeeper.

Screening along with the 70-minute documentary will be Paul Duane's "The Making of Rocky Road to Dublin" (27 minutes), in which Lennon and Coutard recount the making of their then controversial but now classic documentary.

Selected for the prestigious Critics Week at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, it was the last film publicly screened before the festival was stopped in solidarity with the then-erupting student revolt in Paris. "Rocky Road to Dublin" was screened numerous times throughout Paris by student groups taken with the film's theme, "What do you do with your revolution once you've got it?"

In addition to scenes of the Paris protests, the making-of documentary reprises key scenes from the original film, contrasted with a return to some of its locations nearly 40 years later. Lennon also details the state of neglect into which his film had fallen before it was restored by the Irish Film Institute in 2004.

Admission is $2 for International Film Society members and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff and $1 for UW-Eau Claire students. Tickets are available at the Service Center, 715-836-3727, in Davies Center's east lobby, and will be sold at the door.

The film is sponsored by the International Film Society.

-30-

JS/NW

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