The Road Bowlers

NTSC/Widescreen/TRT 9:52/Color/2010

This quiet, fly-on-the-wall documentary takes you to a rural road in Northern Ireland for the Road Bowls All Ireland Finals. Road Bowling is an Irish sport dating back to the 17th century. The game is similar to golf – two opponents take turns throwing a small steel ball down four kilometers of country lanes, and the player to traverse the distance with the fewest number of throws wins. Distinctly Irish, the game is rarely played outside of the Emerald Isle.

In the last century, since the establishment of the Republic of Ireland, the sport has been dominated by players from County Cork in Ireland and County Armagh in Northern Ireland. The fierceness of the resulting rivalry between the two countries reflects the political division in a century of turmoil and violence.

Road Bowling has spawned its own community of fanatics and legends. With thousands of people milling about on country lanes, visiting with friends, making wagers, and watching the throws, the whole event looks fairly casual, and yet decades of bragging rights, county and national pride, and hundreds of thousands of euro in gambling are wrapped up in the outcome.

Filmmaker and Midwestern State University professor Jonathan Quam writes of the film, “The reason the documentary and the sport are subtly complex is they both have the look and feel of something very homespun in their presentation, but both have been labored over in a way that make the details worth searching for. The sport appears at first to simply consist of throwing a steel ball down a country highway, but in reality the foot and hand work truly counts when it comes to winning. The documentary starts as a simple, short documentary about an obscure sport from another country; but because of the specific bits of history and information pointed out, the viewer leaves understanding it in a way that he/she may not have expected when the viewing began.”

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