Men at Lunch – Lón Sa Speir: Documentary Review



Directed by Seán Ó Cualáin, Men At Lunch looks at the history and myths behind the 1932 photograph, ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’. Taken in Manhattan, as the Rockafellar Center was being built, the documentary looks at the background of ’30 Rock’ in New York, the great depression and how skyscrapers were shooting up, if you’ve no more ground to build on, build up.

In the photograph, we see Central Park in the background, without harnesses, the iron workers eat their lunch, 57 stories up. No room for acrophobia here! Deep in the bowels of the building there is a photographic ‘museum’, which has prints of all the photographs taken and these show that it wasn’t just the iron workers up there. Pictures of photographers taking photographs of other snappers. It really interesting to see how they found out who actually took the photograph.

As for the men who are eating lunch, we are taken on a trip trying to get to the bottom of the identities of the eleven, how lots of people claim one of them is their grandfather and how a photograph in a pub in the west of Ireland has lead to establishing the identities of two of the men.

This is a documentary which both fans of photography and history will enjoy, using interviews, stills and archival footage. Photography fans will enjoy the visual element and the glimpse we get of the archives. For this viewer, the history of New York city is fascinating and we get a real gritty look at how the city was built. Very enjoyable and extremely educating with a dash of an Irish twist.

The documentary runs in the IFI until February 7.