ROADS OF LEAST RESISTANCE:
IRISH ATTITUDES TO PROTEST AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
French new wave cinematographer Raoul Coutard shot Rocky Road to Dublin (directed by Peter Lennon, 1968) while he was in between shooting with Godard and Truffaut. A mix of journalistic essay film, visual anthropology and new wave expressionism, it asked the question ‘what do you do with your revolution once you have it?’ The answer for the Republic of Ireland, it seemed, was to sit in the seats of your former oppressors and become them yourselves. Ireland’s parochial and conservative attitude was put under attack and the Catholic Church more than implicated as the reason for its failure to imagine itself differently.
According to Peter Lennon, the Irish censor at the time said he couldn’t ban the film because there wasn’t any sex in it, but it was prevented from being shown by the government and through official channels in public places including on RTE, who said it was backed by ‘communist money’. According to Lennon, it was funded by an American friend of his.
It was selected for Cannes in 1968 but not screened – for that was the year that Godard and co. shut down Cannes Film Festival in solidarity with the students’ revolution. As a result Rocky Road to Dublin did get screened informally in the Paris student communes in 1968 as a warning about what not to do with your revolution. Soon after it was shown at Cork Film Festival and secured a seven-week run in a Dublin cinema. After that, apart from occasional screenings by the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, it was not shown in Ireland publicly until 2005 when, following restoration and production of a ‘making of’ complementary short by Loopline Films, it was finally broadcast by RTÉ.