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The bull and I

Genre: Documentary
MPAA Rating: unrated
Runtime: 75 minutes
Our Rating:
Directed by: Ido Mizrahy
Cast: Antonio Barrera
Review by Jean Lowerison

There are two ways to make it as a matador. One is artistic, with balletic moves that win over the audience. The other is with raw courage and the willingness to attempt such risky maneuvers that the audience can’t take its eyes off you.

Antonio Barrera was in the second category. A journeyman bullfighter, he lacked the refinement and grace of the greats, but made up for it with moves so dangerous that he retired as the most-gored matador in history.

Director Ido Mizrahy tells Barrera’s story in Gored, a fascinating inside look at “la corrida” and the price it extracts from its practitioners, told mostly in interviews and archival footage.

Barrera always knew he wanted to be a matador, and began performing in his town outside Seville when he was only seven. He was a 15-year-old novice the first time he was gored.

His philosophy of bullfighting was “Put all the meat on the grill and be ready to die,” and many of the clips show him tempting fate with close cape work and the crazy way he knelt in front of the bull as it charged out of the pen. Several of his gorings are also shown.

Barrera liked to work with the toughest bulls around, too – the Miura, huge beasts that a geneticist found carry DNA strains from aurochs, the extinct European long-horned cattle. Julius Caesar described the auroch as “a little below the elephant in size.”

Some 20 years after that novice event, Barrera retired after 23 gorings and 18 follow-up surgeries.

Barrera would still be working (though at retirement he was more than a decade past a matador’s prime) but for his marriage and the birth of his two children. “Now that I’m a father, I’m more afraid of dying,” he reports.

Carmen, Maider

His wife Maider is much relieved. She reports “I’ve lived in a lot of fear because he’s been gored many times” (she observed several of them). “When he called me after performing (the last time), that was the real victory for me.”

Barrera now manages a bullfighter, but laments that the transition has been hard. Once a matador, always a matador.

“Once you retire, you are forgotten,” he says. And he hasn’t given up the dream of returning to the ring: “I have to believe I will fight again to go on living.”

Bullfighting is held is some disdain in many quarters, which may limit this film’s audience. Pity, because whatever you think of it, you can’t help but be impressed (if aghast) at the lengths some matadors will go to please an audience.

Photo Credits: Filmrise


Recommended Audience:
Bullfighting fans