Lionel Rose film pulls no punches
DIRECTOR Eddie Martin is no boxing aficionado. His interest in Lionel Rose (pictured) was piqued by the special place the former world champ occupies in the working-class psyche.
‘‘I had seen photos of Lionel in pubs. I knew how important they were; that there were a lot of people he meant a lot to,’’ says the filmmaker. ‘‘I wanted to meet him.’’
Martin knew members of Rose’s extended family and they gave him contact details.
After an initial phone call, he says he ‘‘just went around and knocked on the door and introduced myself’’.
Martin’s personal connection with his subject is one reason why the documentary, Lionel Rose, focuses on the man behind the myth.
In building up a portrait of the Aboriginal sporting hero, the Melbourne-based filmmaker chose to talk to Rose’s friends and family rather than boxing promoters and sports journalists.
Initially, he assumed he would be revisiting the subject of an earlier documentary made during Rose’s halcyon days in the 1960s and early ’70s. Martin was astounded to discover that his non-fiction film would be a first.
His second surprise was the rich body of archival footage just waiting to be unearthed.
‘‘As I delved into doing research I couldn’t believe how much archival stuff was just buried,’’ he says. The natural screen charisma of his leading man was an added bonus for Martin.
Rose had a stroke in 2007, towards the later stages of filming, which has affected his speech and movement. But most of the interviews had already been shot.
‘‘It was really important for Lionel to tell his own story,’’ Martin says. ‘‘I wanted people to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Lionel had told some of the stories a few times over the years to his mates, so there were some great dramatic pauses in there.’’
Part of being a good documentary maker is knowing when to stand back.
Despite the close relationship Martin forged with Rose and his wife Jenny, the film doesn’t ignore the sportsman’s struggle with alcohol over the years, culminating in a court appearance for breaking and entering.
‘‘At the end of the day people can judge for themselves, but I don’t think Lionel’s done anything that bad,’’ says Martin.
‘‘I’ve had my problems, too,’’ says Rose sagely when asked whether he can see any connection between his fall from grace and those of today’s sportsmen such as Wayne Carey and Ben Cousins.