Lionel Rose film pulls no punches

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

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.

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