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Like many people, I watched numerous fights between Travellers on
Youtube. I never really understood what motivated two men to stand in
an old, mucky lane - and throw down until both were bloody and bruised.
'Knuckle' provides the back-story to why all of these fights went down.
It begins in 1997 when the director is asked to film a wedding for a then 18 year old, Michael Quinn McDonagh. The footage for the documentary spans over a decade up to 2009, documenting a cross-family feud between the Quinn McDonaghs and the Joyces. Both the Quinn McDonaghs, and Joyces are related. But this does not stop the ensuing battle that would rage on between the families up to present day.
Both families create video tapes, to taunt the opposing family and 'send for' a representative to fight. The fights are documented, some ending in violent fashion, while others ending in a mutual agreement for a draw.
The first documented fight shows James Quinn of the Quinn McDonaghs and Paddy Joyce, throw down in a quiet country lane. The fight is short, but brutal. Although it is violent, both fighters fight under fair rules - which ensures that no head-butting, biting or kicking is allowed - and when a man is defeated, the fight is over.
This would set the stage for the rest of the documentary. The film is fresh, and shows an often unseen side of the Irish Traveller community. Big money is often up for grabs, one fight alone has a purse of £120,000 - larger than the purses of many of today's professional boxers.
Anyone who has seen the Irish traveller fights on Youtube, and wants to get a better understanding of the story behind these fights - should watch this documentary. Credit to the director - as this is the culmination of 12 years work. I can't think of any other documentary that is shot over such a long period.
Like many great documentaries, Knuckle was born out of something else. It originally began as a wedding video. Ian Palmer found something so interesting about his guests, he ventured further and discovered the world of Irish travelling bare knuckle boxing. Most specifically he follows the feud between two clans of the same family, The McDonaghs and the Joyces. So after that wedding video, Palmer ended up documenting this feud and these fights for 12 years. This extraordinary amount of time puts the whole thing into perspective about the needlessness and absurdity of violence. Many say the feud goes back 50 years, and yet nobody gives a straight answer as to its origins. People hold grudges and plan rematches 9 years down the line. It becomes obvious that fighting has become an addiction and a way of life for these poor men. They have nothing else to do. When we see the acclaim they receive from their families, it's easy to see why they have been so taken in by aggression. In the first fight James McDonagh says it will be his last, but it's far from it. He seems genuine about his wanting to quit, but he always ends up in another fight. Even the director talks about how he continued filming just for the thrill, and had lost sight of his documentary. Every fight is brutal in that realistic sense, and Palmer clearly paints a vivid picture of this strange world. Aggressive men, but loving husbands and fathers. Fights that are fought for lack of reason, but are controlled and fair with a sense of honour. Knuckle is the kind of film that lures you in with basic blood lust, but gives you a whole lot more.
Knuckle is a sad story about various factions of one family of Irish
Travelers who settle decades-long animosity toward one another through
bare-knuckle battles that take place in obscure areas across the Irish
landscape. Modern technology plays a big role in their feud. The
fights, that pit the toughest men in each of the families against one
another, are filmed for immediate viewing by all competing families.
Although the battles, billed as "fair fights" with impartial referees from non-combatant families, show the fighters giving their all, win or lose, it is the insulting and disparaging commentary, captured on film after the fights by the victors' clan members that fuel the feud for years to come. There are isolated shots of women and children. One woman, in particular, spoke at length about the need for all of this to come to an end. The greatest sadness in the film is the legacy that the feuding and fighting brings to the children who are doomed to follow in their dads and uncles footsteps, if not as fighters certainly as haters. One might conclude that these feuding families found a safer way of dealing with their hostility toward one another than shooting or stabbing.
Filmed over a decade-long period from the mid-1990's to mid-2000's, viewers are offered only a glimmer of hope that things could change. But even this is marred by the reality that all it takes is a slight, an insult or a "dis" that could change things in a moment. As for the fighting itself, film-goers will see quite a few bloody battles, one with two out-of-shape grandfathers. But there is nothing to compare with professional boxing or mixed martial arts. These were pure street fights with some grabbing, gouging and biting (although all of that was cause for disqualification). As someone one who knows just enough about boxing I kept wondering, throughout all of the fights, why none of the combatants went for the body.
Everybody has there their own views on travellers . Most of which would
not be printable . Knuckles is a film that follows a group of feuding
families over a 12 year period who try settle their differences by bare
knuckle boxing. This is a rare and fascinating look into a side of life
that non travellers very rarely see. These men , who have genuine hate
for each other , pitch up and fight sometimes for hours , for the
honour of their families and also for big big money. What surprised me
about these fight is that it is not as unruly as you might imagine.
There is a referee who pulls the fighters apart and keeps order and the
families who hate each other are not allowed to watch so to avoid
brawls. Another this is , is that they very rarely actually knock each
other out. Because these are proud men , they don't stop , so
eventually fatigue becomes the winner.
I really enjoyed Knuckles. It showed a group of people who are so fiercely proud of the families they belong to but have an almost Neanderthal way of life.
Well worth watching.
Director Ian Palmer had a contact with Irish 'traveller' families and he became interested in their ways. In particular he sought out the semi-ritualized bare knuckle fights which solve (and re-kindle) their feuds. This feature-length documentary has been gestating for over a decade. Palmer's film partly appeals because of the secret nature of the age-old practice and the raw brutality of some of the moments caught on film. It grabs the same part of the psyche that responds when the ugly cage fighting is on (Cable) TV. Of course bare knuckle fighting isn't the invention of the 'tinkers' it was common throughout England in the 19th century it just looks weird now as an atavistic survival amongst these sprawling, huge, feud-locked families. Some of Palmer's subjects are great documentary material, especially his lead character who keeps fighting (and winning) but who has begun to felt heart-sick at the whole thing. You can also see the well springs of renewal in the adoring faces of the little boys who shadow box and dance around him as he comes home victorious. This is what it means to be a real man in this community. The old men are involved too, usually as referees (there are rules as we discover when young aspirant loses the plot and is disqualified for a bit of the old Mike Tyson face-biting). Away from the blood lust and excitement of the back lots and lanes, the members of the various feuding families the Quinns and the Joyces pontificate on what the point of it all is. "It's not just wars", says one man, "it means something." But the remark hangs in the air precisely because, as Palmer's haunting doco shows, this might no longer be true, if it ever was. There is individual heroism here but increasingly the sad idea takes hold that this dying form is just a huge cannibalistic waste of community energies.
I got to watch this documentary a couple of days ago and it's a very troubling film about families whose feuds go back more than 40 years that doesn't give any explanation on how it happen. It could be some of those family members had long past on but still it gives you a very disturbing view on how these families would settle a knuckle fight in wanting to settle the scores. The one thing that was troubling me of watching it were the children that had to see their fathers beat the other family up which to me it's a sign of abuse of what their witnessing which I sincerely hope they don't end up growing up like their fathers in wanting to slug a family member. The real heroes go to the wives & mothers who simply want this feud to end so they can be a family again and put aside petty problems that has been going on for too long. I sincerely hope after they watch this film they need to realize this can't continue any longer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A real life Irish Fight Club? This brutally honest, raw and disturbing documentary uncovers a startling story of a family feud that follows a rather bizarre course. For several decades, the traveling Quinn McDonagh family has been fighting with their cousins the Joyces, in an ongoing feud that makes the Hatfield McCoy feud seem like a minor family spat. Although the origins seem hazy now, each generation seemingly is determined to keep the feud going. Every couple of years male members of these rival clans meet in some back road or remote farm yard to try and resolve their differences through bouts of bare knuckle fights. Essentially it's brothers fighting cousins, and some of these fights last for barely a few brutal minutes. Not only is family honour and masculine pride at stake, but there is also a substantial monetary prize for the winner. There are also rules to be observed, which are enforced by a couple of neutral referees. Documentary filmmaker Ian Palmer stumbled upon this fascinating story when he was invited to film a wedding by James Quinn McDonagh, the formidable leader of his clan. Even though he is now past his prime, James has never lost a bout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
it is a bad and barbaric documentary that highlights the brutality of Irish travelers but it is also one sided documentary, it focuses a lot on the Quinn's (Quinn McDonaghs) and not so much on the Joyce's and Nevin's. The fights were good in the documentary but some of them are mismatches the fight at the start with James Quinn and the man they call the Lurcher was an example of that. Fair play to James Quinn i think is a good bare knuckle boxer , but the best fight in the documentary is the one with cowboys martin and the Nevin man who knocks out martin eventually It would have been good to have seen James try to avenge his friends defeat and challenge Nevin but unfortunately this doesn't happen i personally think Nevin would have defeated James like he did martin . I think the video is completely ridiculous and shows how violent Irish travelers and English gypsies are but saying that maybe it is better fighting bare knuckle rather than shooting someone over arguments either way it makes me proud to be a ''country man''
Ian Palmer's fascinating look into the oft hidden world of traveling
Irish gypsies and there subsequent bare knuckle boxing is a raw
unflinching documentary that while not offering any concrete answers as
to why these things happen it's still a must see account of some wholly
original real life characters and lifestyles.
Make no doubt about you will need to have subtitles on for Knuckle for it features a set of Irish men whose accent is so thick you would be hard pressed to understand a single sentence. The focus of Knuckle and these men is on James McDonagh a man who has never lost a fight and amongst his fellow kin is likened to some sort of Irish boxing God. James is a bewildering character but an ever watchable one, witness as he proclaims his fighting days are over only to again return to the arena to uphold is families name once more. Capturing James and his family over twelve years is director Palmer who deserves much credit for his work here.
Palmer's direction is not professional in any stretch of the imagination but what it is true to the subject and his ability to have an unflinching eye on proceedings of these family feuds should be commended. With Palmer's hand behind camera the film never feels like it is taking a side in the story or pointing fingers at anyone whether they seem right or wrong, it's a bold directional decision yet allows the film to play out in non-intrusive way.
Knuckle is a gritty violent film that some will find truly repulsive, Knuckle is also a must see for what happens in this story is real, the people are real and the emotions are real. If someone were to make a movie of this story it would seem unrealistic yet here we have an unquestionably honest look at a world that many would prefer not to acknowledge, put it this way if you thought Brad Pitt was the quintessential gypsy boxer you ain't seen nothing yet.
4 swollen knuckles out of 5
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A great film that i will watch again and again, the low rating is just not justified, this is pure adrenaline and compassion at the same time. A raw in depth documentary not to be missed, a look into the normally very private lives of the Irish travellers. This isn't just fight after fight it shows why and how the family's solve there feuds. some of the footage is a bit sketchy but takes nothing away from the film if any thing adds to the gritty compelling nature of this feature. Although i would say this isn't for the feint hearted and contains some very brutal real life bare knuckle fights, this is still a very good film that every one should see.
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