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'Rocky Ros Muc’ Releases in US Today
06 Oct 2017 : Nathan Griffin
Rocky Ros Muc
IFTN caught up with director Michael Fanning, as the film goes on release in NY and LA, to qualify for Oscar Awards.

Below The Radar’s project opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday October 6th and in Boston on October 13th, making it eligible for an Oscar nomination in 2018.

The feature documentary tells the story of Galway boxer Sean Mannion, a world-class boxer who left the Irish-speaking village of Ros Muc in Galway, for Boston, in the 1970s.

The film examines Mannion’s fighting spirit inside the ring as a professional boxer, and his life outside the ring where his sparring partners and friends at the time were at the heart of Whitey Bulger’s notorious Winter Hill gang and the South Boston criminal underworld.

The film is being released in US by the LA Based Distributor, Double Exposure, who are releasing on three screens, with five screenings per day in NY and LA plus two screenings a day in Boston.

IFTN caught up with Below the Radar CEO and the documentary’s director, Michael Fanning, ahead of the release.

IFTN:  What’s the Festival reaction been like to ‘Rocky Ros Muc’?

Michael Fanning: “The reaction has been fantastic, overwhelming. It screened in Boston at the Irish Film Festival, where it sold out. It screened at the Fleadh where it sold out; they put on an additional screening. Then we had a screening in the IFI Doc Fest last weekend and again, really warmly received so I think from my point of view the reaction has been as much to Sean Mannion himself and not just the film.

“That’s where I think it has been really good because people are learning about Sean or learning a bit more about Sean and appreciating that he is one of Ireland’s great unsung sporting heroes so when the round of applause goes up at the end, I know it’s for Sean Mannion and that’s where I have taken considerable comfort.”

IFTN: It’s such an incredible story, especially when you are made aware of how much it ties in with the socio-economic issues that faced America at that time – The Whitey Bulger connection, and so forth.

Michael “Exactly yeah, when I first heard it, I thought it was this great story, almost this tragic story of this boxer from Ireland who nearly reached the top but didn’t quite get there. And he is still alive and alive to tell the tale, but then the more and more I started learning about the story, I couldn’t quite believe all those connections, all those ties and how it all fitted together, which actually made it an incredible story.”

IFTN: How did you come across the story?

Michael “One of the contributors in the Doc is Ronan Mac an Ionrad. He had written a book as Gaeilge on Sean’s career. So he was promoting the book and the book wasn’t much more about Sean the fighter. When I met Ronan, he was actually a guest on a TV show I produce here for BBC Northern Ireland, he was on to talk about the book and I said to him listen I think we should do a doc on Sean’s life so Ronan spoke with Sean and that’s how it happened.

“I suppose I was keen to broaden it slightly so it wasn’t just a boxing film, I was keen to tell the story of the Irish in Boston through the eyes of a boxer, and that ever so slight shift would make it more cinematic and broader to an audience who mightn’t be interested primarily in boxing but would be interested in the experience of the Irish abroad.”

IFTN: What do you think American Audiences can expect from this documentary?  For a person who, as you said might not be interested in boxing, do you feel the Whitey Bulger crossover diversifies the story to enough to attract a wider audience?

Michael “Well it certainly does, and I think there is definitely that element, that peak into Whitey Bulger and that time in Boston, that crime scene that Americans are definitely interested in.

“But, I also felt that for an audience in NY especially, whether you are Irish or whether you are from Asia or Africa, you will be able to get a sense of the immigration story and that sense of community and identity and I think that is a story not to be too cliché, but that is a universal story particularly in a city like New York.

“You mightn’t be Irish, you mightn’t be a boxer but there is an experience, a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, and a sense of home that as an audience member you will connect with your own circumstances and will be able to relate to that and we tie it all together with this great story so I think there is also this natural story that people will be interested in but there are also those wider themes that relate more that makes it more than just about the Irish in America, a lot of people will have their own personal experiences that run along similar lines.”

IFTN: Can you tell us anything about the work that your US distributors has been doing in relation to qualifying for the feature doc category at the American Academy Awards this year?

Michael: “Basically, in order to qualify for the Academy Awards the film must have a week’s run in LA and a week’s run in New York and a number of other boring criteria that you have to tick the box. So by having a week in New York and having a week in LA we are aiming to get us qualified for Oscar consideration.

IFTN: That’s obviously an area of topical discussion right now with the Oscar’s hosting their second ever meeting with members to discuss issues surrounding VOD entries such as Netflix to the Academy Awards.

Michael: “Absolutely, if you look last year at who won the award for Best Documentary, that was ESPN’s ‘The People Vs. OJ Simpson’ and of course that was a series of documentary, it was 10, hour-long documentaries. How can you judge a budget of a 10 hour vs 1 hour documentary against one another because there is obviously skills in both so it’s interesting watching how that pans out from afar, but from our point of view and our purpose, what we are trying to do is show that Irish productions and Irish talent can be up there in consideration with the best. Why wouldn’t we try and do that, in particular with an Irish Language film as well.”


‘Rocky Ros Muc’ was funded by TG4, the Broadcasting Authority in Ireland, the Irish Film Board, Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund and MG Alba.

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