Lionel (2008)

Director: Eddie Martin

Tagline: At least as good as "Rose against the Odds"

I grew up in Drouin, so although this doesn't give me any more licence to talk about the film with any more authority than anyone else, I just thought I would mention it at the start so I can explain things a bit better.

Growing up I had heard of Lionel Rose, but only the usual stories that get passed around a small country town and then mostly the bad ones. My dad also used to be a boxer in the 1970s so he knew quite a bit about him and even went on some of the same TV shows covering boxing that were popular at the time.

Mrs Rose was my art teacher in primary school, I knew she was married to Lionel, but nobody asked her about it and everyone was more interested in the art class anyway.

I can still remember the filming of the "Rose against the Odds" TV mini-series and the phone prank that was going around at the time surrounding it. This involved telling your friend they had to go to the car park at 3am dressed in fish-net stockings and yelling out "Lionel darling, tell me you love me!" I don't remember the series being that well received and one of my friends claimed to live in Warragul-West for the rest of the time he lived in Drouin afterwards because of it.

This documentary comes out quite well I thought. I didn't think Lionel and some of the other people needed subtitles, you just need to pay attention to what they are saying. The subtitles issue has even been satirised on a SBS comedy show before so I will not be the only person to mention it.

I enjoyed the replays of the fights and in particular the scenes where Lionel is watching them with his extended family. It is different than just showing the footage and I thought it works quite well.

What I liked the best about the documentary is that it should reach out to audiences on different levels. I thought the swearing and funny scenes were great to have, but serious art house movie fans will like the shots of the grass, Jenny and Lionel driving around and the drool dripping off the mouths of the dish lickers in one scene. I don't know about the shots of the park in the commission housing area behind the footy oval, it's just Drouin! Nothing special about that. I used to live on McNielly Rd, which is across the paddocks from that area. It is now built out, but that strip of houses used to have nothing but paddocks around it.

The scene of Lionel with his mum was also great. It wasn't mentioned, but a lot of Koori women are called Mrs once they get past a certain age. They are also the head of the family and even their grown-up children know to behave themselves or cop a walloping.

Hopefully the film kicks on in its screenings as it was very well attended in the screening I went to. I didn't know that Lionel tried out as a wrestler at one stage also, it mentioned in the Q&A after the screening.

Rating: 8/10

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