Moving on to this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition, I’ll begin with Ireland/UK’s KNUCKLE, director Ian Palmer’s longitudinal profile of two quarreling Irish clans.
Sundance Program Description:
Residing in Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom, the Travellers are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group with their own customs and a deep sense of clan pride, despite being interrelated by marriage within their small population. When conflicts arise, arguments are often settled through ritualized, bare-knuckle fighting.
Director Ian Palmer followed members of the Traveller community for 12 years and became privy to a decades-long family feud of Hatfield-McCoy proportions. At the center of the conflict is James, the confident, yet reluctant, defender of the Quinn McDonaghs, who is frequently challenged to fight his cousins, the Joyces. An outsider in a secretive world, Palmer waited years before he began to learn the reasons for the animosity between the rival clans.
Disturbingly raw, yet compulsively engaging, KNUCKLE offers candid access to a rarely seen, brutal world where a cycle of bloody violence seems destined to continue unabated.
Palmer has previously made short films on Travellers, but KNUCKLE marks his feature documentary debut, having met his protagonist at a wedding and been asked to videotape a fight. His producer, Teddy Leifer, is no stranger to the World Cinema Documentary Competition – he also produced the 2009 Grand Jury Prize winner, ROUGH AUNTIES. He also executive produced a film in this year’s new Documentary Premieres section, THE INTERRUPTERS (which will be profiled here next week).
Why You Should Watch:
The benefit of a longitudinal project such is this one is that the viewer gets to see characters develop over time. While Palmer doesn’t film constantly, his main subject, James, goes through changes in his life in the intervening years that suggest that the story may end in a different place than what the audience might initially suspect.
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above.