Rocky Road to Dublin

ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN is a provocative and revealing portrait of Ireland in the Sixties, a society characterized by a stultifying educational system, a morally repressive and politically reactionary clergy, a myopic cultural nationalism, and a government which seemingly knew no boundary between church and state. Now available in a newly-restored version prepared by The Irish Film Institute, this controversial film can at last be reassessed after a nearly forty-year period of neglect. (The Making of Rocky Road to Dublin is also available, as a separate title, or purchase both for one price. See below.)

Encouraged by the controversy he had stirred with a series of newspaper articles and inspired by French 'New Wave' filmmakers of the era, Dublin-born Peter Lennon, who had lived and worked in Paris as a journalist for a decade, decided to revisit his native country in 1967 to make a film assessing the state of the nation.

Amidst scenes of everyday Irish life -- on the streets, in the classroom, at pubs, sporting events, dance halls, and a lively discussion amongst Trinity College students -- ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN blends interviews with writers Sean O'Faolain and Conor Cruise O'Brien, a spokesman for the Gaelic Athletic Association, theater producer Jim Fitzgerald, a member of the censorship board, an editor of The Irish Times, film director John Huston, and a young Catholic priest, Father Michael Cleary.

Featuring the inspired photography of legendary French cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and an incisive, literate voice-over commentary by Lennon, ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN captures an 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. In a striking example of the film's unwitting prescience, one of its most colorful figures-Father Cleary, "Ireland's singing priest"-was later revealed to have fathered two children with his 17-year-old housekeeper.

Although the stereotypical image of Ireland as a cultural backwater seems to bear little relation to the country's reputation today, a culturally vibrant and economically vigorous "Celtic Tiger," it is in such moments that ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN, as a historical film, illustrates not only how far Ireland has come but also how little it has changed.

"[ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN] is not only a precursor to The Troubles in Northern Ireland but to all the troubles that would come with the counterculture of the later 1960s, Vietnam and Watergate in the 1970s, Iran-Contra in the 1980s, and the culture wars (and real wars) of the 1990s and early 21st century."—Anthropology Review Database

"Magnificent! One of the most beautiful documentaries the cinema has given us."—Cahiers du Cinéma

"[A] most interesting and significant film event. Blisteringly critical…affectionate and fair-minded… beautifully photographed… by Coutard... with a lean, eloquent commentary."—The Observer

"Sparks lively discussion of the once-antithetical concepts of Ireland and progress."—Leonardo Digital Reviews

"★★★★ [4 out of 5 stars!] Glows with idealism: a brilliant, affectionate, exasperated portrait of his native land, in thrall to reactionary politics and a repressive church, decades after throwing off the English yoke. Almost 40 years on… [it] still has a blazing raw energy, coupled with shrewd insight."—The Guardian

"Sharp and mercilessly effective…"—Channel 4 International

"★★★★☆ [4 out of 5 stars!] Critic's Choice!"—Time Out

"Politically intelligent and formally innovative… not just historical, it is a contemporary film."—Fortnight (Belfast)


Main credits

Lennon, Peter (filmmaker)
Lennon, Peter (commentator)
Herbert, Victor (film producer)

Other credits

Photography, Raoul Coutard, Georges Liron; editing, Lila Biro, Philippe Delesalle, Guy Delooz; background music, The Dubliners with Luke Kelly.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Black & White
Cinema Studies
Western Europe


Paul Duane; Peter Lennon; Raoul Coutard; 1968 Cannes Film Festival; May '68; student groups; Jean-Luc Godard; Francois Truffaut; Irish Film Institute; film; video; dvd; documentary; new wave; Ireland; Sixties; 1960s; reactionary clergy; church and state; French 'New Wave'; Irish life; Pubs; Trinity College ; Sean O'Faolain; Conor Cruise O'Brien,; Gaelic Athletic Association; Jim Fitzgerald; The Irish Times; John Huston; Catholic; Father Michael Cleary; French cinematographer; Raoul Coutard ; 'Celtic Tiger'; "Rocky Road to Dublin"; Icarus Films; "Rocky Road to Dublin"; Icarus Films

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