Watched Jan 29, 2012
Morgan Nichol’s review:
This documentary follows the exploits of Irish Traveller clan the Quinn McDonaghs as they feud with (formerly friendly) clan the Joyces.
The fighting has been formalised into organised bare knuckle fights, which are extremely violent and bloody affairs - but carefully adjudicated by referees bought in from other clans, held in surreptitious locations away from their home clans to avoid rioting, and with months of training in advance of each fight, so is presumably a much less violent option than the alternative - which given the passions involved would seem to be outright gang warfare.
The creator stumbled into producing it after being asked to video a Wedding, discovered a crowd of men gambling around the back of the church, and for whatever reason quickly gained the trust of some of the travellers, who then asked him to also shoot some of their fights.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the revelation that the Travellers had been filming and sending taunting messages to one another, as well as distributing videos of their many fights amongst themselves in an early tape-based equivalent of youtube. That and the incredible amounts of money that get wagered on the outcomes of some of the fights, upwards of a hundred thousand pounds later on in the piece. Yet another, entirely unneeded, reason for the clans to be passionate (and sour, depending on the result) about the results.
After twelve years shooting the fights - and finally being driven away after watching the repellent sight of a bareknuckle fight between a couple of overweight grandfathers - he decided he had enough footage of fights, home life, and interviews (with both sides of the feud) that he could put this together, and share the story.
The poster for the documentary is a bit misleading, as it's so carefully produced, while the documentary is mainly composed of fairly amateur (at best) footage from the creator, as well as borrowed footage from other people at fights that he couldn't be at, and dirty old copies of taunt videos, captured from who knows how many generations old VHS tapes.
That said, the film makes good use of the longitudinal nature of their footage, moving back and forth through time to reveal the stories of the various involved parties, explain the beginning of the feud (and the false explanation that many of the travellers seem to believe), meet parents and wives who are now over the whole thing, and try to see if there's some way out of the current state of things.
Ultimately it's an interesting look into a culture that's usually hidden from us, and is populated with charismatic (or at least larger than life) characters, but it isn't especially well put together.