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In 1968, a 19 year old young aboriginal boxer with a charming smile punched his way to history when he beat Fighting Harada in Japan over fifteen rounds. His name was Lionel Rose and he became the undisputed world bantamweight champion. Two hundred and fifty thousand people hit the streets of Melbourne to welcome him back and he went on to become a symbolic figure in the interracial politics of the times. Combining archival and present day observational footage and interviews, the film explores how Lionel became a mythic sporting figure and his struggle with the dimensions of that myth in his every day life.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The pictures tell it all. And behind those pictures are the often indefinable sensations about the people and the times - the sportsmanship of Lionel Rose, the generosity of Australians (and Japanese) towards him, the camaraderie of all the folks around him, not just family. And Lionel's humility, his racial innocence in a world that was about to change forever.

As for its subject matter, the filmmakers have made excellent use of the wealth of archival footage. And it's an inspiration to show some of it on a TV screen as it is being replayed today, with Lionel and his family and friends watching it. It adds to the way the film plays as a social documentary of greater depth and scope, with Rose as its centrepiece.

Today, after a string of Aboriginal champs like Cathy Freeman and Yvonne Goolagong to celebrate, the novelty is no longer felt; but this film reminds us of the young man who was a pioneer for his race - and also for Australia. Where the story becomes more layered and engaging is the aftermath of his success, when he goes through the wilderness years.

The film is decorated by some wonderfully candid moments, some of which are deceptively undramatic; a chuckle with a friend in the living room over a beer, or a snatched telephone conversation in a pub... these add even more texture and resonance to the character portrait at the heart of the film. People as diverse as Elvis Presley and Charlie Perkins wanted to meet him ... now we can, too. And it's a pleasure.

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(Aust, 2008)

CAST: Documentary featuring Lionel Rose (Australia's first Aboriginal world champion boxer), Jenny Rose, Jack Rennie, Mark Rennie, John Johnson, Gary Foley

PRODUCER: Lizzette Atkins

DIRECTOR: Eddie Martin

SCRIPT: Eddie Martin, David Tiley


EDITOR: Ken Sallows

MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2008

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