Tribeca Film Festival Review: Gored, by Rudie Obias
One of the best things about the Tribeca Film Festival are its many offerings when it comes to sports documentaries, such as Straight Outta LA and The Two Escobars. This year is no different with a few new films exploring widely popular sports in Europe, such as Palio, about a special breed of horseracing in Italy, and Gored, about the “most gored bullfighter in history,” Antonio Barrera.
Gored does a fine job informing its audience of who Antonia Barrera is and how he fits into the legacy of bullfighters throughout time. He started out his career seeming to have made a special connection with bullfighting at a very young age. The documentary goes in-depth with presenting an overview of Barrera’s career highlights while painting a backdrop for his final professional bullfight. Gored is a very well-constructed documentary from Ido Mizrahy, as it doesn’t shy away from showing a dangerous bull tossing around Barrera like a ragdoll.
Gored also does a good job showing the damage Barrera has done, not only to his body, but to his family. He has a very understanding wife who believes in him but also wants him to retire soon. Barrera comes from a long family lineage of bullfighters, as it’s one of the few sports in Spain and Mexico where lower-class persons could ascend to a higher social level. We even get an impression that Barrera’s son will be the next to follow in the family business.
My problem with the documentary is not with the film itself, which is informative and well structured, but rather the sport of bullfighting, which is barbaric and savage and just plain cruel. The filmmaker paints bullfighting as a noble art form, as it presents Barrera as an artist and craftsman of the sport, rather than a killer. It’s really hard for me to separate the brutality of the sport while the film views matadors as athletic superstars like Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, or LeBron James. Maybe my opposition to bullfighting is purely cultural, but Gored doesn’t really help viewers with why this terrible sport is still in practice.
A majority of Gored never explores the morality of killing animals for sport or the ethics of treating mighty bulls as entertainment. I don’t even think it’s an entirely fair sport because at the end of the match the bull has to die. It would be more fair if the bull simply killed the matador, instead of having other bullfighters pull him from harm’s way when the bull finally does gore him. Now that sounds fair to me. It’s a sick and twisted sport.
Gored does spend about less than a minute of its 76-minute running time showing protestors and animal rights activists outside of an arena but it just feels they accidently got into frame instead of the filmmaker intentionally bringing up questions about the true nature of bullfighting. It’s glossed over at best and irresponsible at worst. Overall, Gored takes a look at a world-famous matador at the end of his bullfighting career, but the documentary isn’t as piercing as its title suggests.
Bullfighting is not a sport and it is not even a fight, not a contest of equals, it is not supposed to be fair. It is the ritualized tragedy of the death of a bull, a performance where man uses his intelligence, grace, courage and honor, consciously risking his life in order to try and control brute force and instinct and try to shape it into something aesthetic, pleasing and beautiful. When he is successful, it is a triumph that the audience collectively lives via the heroe, the torero. Fighting bulls are a different breed of bovine and live between 4 and 6 years like kings, on huge ranches untouched by humans. They go to the bullring and 20 minutes later they are killed with a sword to the heart and then go for meat. The bull can only appear once because it soon learns to ignore the cape and cut into the man, making the passes and maneuvers that can be artistic and thrilling for the audience impossible. The female, fighting cow, is never killed in a bullring, but spends her breeding life in the open field. The business of of the bullfight allows for the breeding and the raising of these animals, along with the unique ecosystems of their huge ranches mostly in southern Spain. Ban the bullfight and this special and beautiful breed of animal disappears. They are too dangerous, expensive and complex to raise just for meat, as their whole purpose, instinct is to charge. Apparently the film doesn’t even touch on the basics of what the spectacle is all about, very unfortunate.