Knuckle covers twelve years in a bitter family feud between three Irish traveler clans—the Quinn McDonaghs, Joyces and Nevins. Travelers live on the margins, facing discrimination and poverty. They don’t turn to the law for solutions; problems get sorted with bare knuckle fistfights, sometimes for pots between 30 and 60,000 Euros.
When director Ian Palmer met James Quinn McDonagh and his brother, he was the hired videographer for a family wedding. They asked him to tape training footage for an upcoming fight. Mr. Palmer agreed and was soon drawn into the Quinn McDonaghs’ lives, compelled to find the reason behind their rivalry.
If you want action, this documentary shows a decade’s worth of bloody fistfights, or “fair fights.” The audience can track the fighters as they grow older and see how the pride and fury that fuels them gets passed through generations. Sons step up for fallen fathers; cousin fights cousin; grandfather fights grandfather(!). Only James, over the course of 12 years, stands undefeated.
It’s an engrossing and brutal movie, with an outcome yet to be determined. Just imagine: The travelers have lived in poverty for over seven centuries; the Quinn McDonaghs and Joyces claim the bitterness between them goes back at least 50 years. Even though James now regrets fighting, how can his opinion stop a tradition? The film does a good job showing the heredity of conflict. Maybe the enmity between Quinn McDonaghs and Joyces speaks to larger immutable conflicts like Palestine and Israel, Serbs and Croats.
Or even, indeed, Elves and Orcs.
This year, Knuckle sponsored the annual “Fantastic Debates” at the South Austin Gym. The debates begin at the podiums and end in the ring. The fight of the night was Elijah Wood facing off against Dominic Monaghan in an epic “Frodo”wn over World of Warcraft’s worth. Dominic, fighting for the pro-WoW faction, handily won the match, hammering on his fellow hobbit like Floyd “Merry”weather, Jr.
Of course, with Mr. Wood arguing for The Legend of Zelda, could any other outcome be expected? See the outtakes below; their part begins around 0:50.