Tribeca 2015: ‘Gored’ Explores the Beauty and Brutality of Bullfighting

Tribeca 2015: 'Gored' Explores the Beauty

Gored,” the story of Antonio Barrera, the most gored bullfighter in history, sounds like a candidate for a horror film.

In the hands of director Ido Mizrahy, however, the look at an aging performer operating on the fringes of his chosen profession, becomes a meditation on obsession, personal sacrifice and the push and pull of modernity.

Bullfighting is an incredible brutal spectacle, and part of me is happy to see it go away,” said Mizrahy. “In the same way Antonio is being phased out of the world of bullfighting, bullfighting is being phased out of the world.”

“Gored” opens Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was producer Geoffrey Gray, who first found out about Barrera’s reputation for being frequently injured in the ring and wrote a 2011 piece for Sports Illustrated on the man who had endured 23 gorings and kept coming back for more. He described Barrera as “the Rocky Balboa” of bullfighting. Not the best matador by any stretch, but one with grit and heart and spirit.

“I love what the underdog represents in our culture,” said Gray. “It’s a person who refuses to give up against all odds even though their dream might not be attainable.”

Gray had worked with Mizrahy on “Patrolman P,” a 2014 look at corruption in the New York City police department that also screened at Tribeca, and urged the documentary filmmaker to take on Barrera as his next subject. A news hook appeared after Barrera announced his impending retirement and agreed to allow the filmmakers to shoot his preparation for his final confrontation with a bull and the aftermath of his life after bullfighting.

That was a pivotal moment in Barrera’s life, because from childhood he had been trained by an overbearing father for life as a bullfighter. Married, with a family, he had begun to fear for his own life — an obsession with mortality that was particularly dangerous given his work.

“After he became a father, he finally began to see the toll this was taking on his family,” said Mizrahy. “But when his dreams disappeared, he had a hard time handling that.”

In interviews, Barrera admitted that he struggled to adjust to hanging up his matador’s cape and abandoning his quest for glory.

The clock was ticking on Barrera’s career, but bullfighting is also feeling the ground shift underneath it. “Gored” shrewdly illustrates that the love of bullfighting that still captivates much of southern Spain is under attack. At points in the picture, the filmmakers subtly include images of protesters agitating against the practice and what they argue is animal abuse.

Like Mizrahy, Gray has reservations about bullfighting, though he has also tried with his article and this film to acknowledge the quasi-religious hold it has on parts of the globe.

“A character like Antonio reminds us that time is fleeting and should be celebrated and life should be lived,” he said. “I’m not sure we need to kill something to learn that, but it is something that triggers that feeling in people.”

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  1. Zviad says:

    brave? courageous? please! all bullfighters are cowards! they are not men! they are heartless cowards who torture and kill bulls for entertainment. and people who pay money and attend these horrible events are the worst. if they are so brave and courageous than they should wrestle the bull with the bare hands! bunch of cowards! i have no respect for anyone that tortures the animals, you are all cowards and i wish i had just 15 minutes with you in cage so that i could show you the pain these animals endure before they are killed.

  2. Maksym Szczerbowski says:

    Terrible film! Until the end this scum in slippers and pink tights showed no remorse for the bull whatsoever, so at least I was hoping he’ll die a painful death the way these bulls have to die for entertainment, huge disappointment. I get the message of the movie but it could’ve been shown with an actual brave person instead of a coward that has no empathy for nothing else but his career.

  3. i saw the film. it was an ok film, but the most impacting moment was at the end of the movie. the moment that the Matador is trying to kill the bull. there is a scene when you see the bull crying. tears are gushing out of the eyes of the bull. Poor bull is suffering. if there is a scene that anyone should watch is that scene. it will make an impact in your life. Please stop bull brutality!

  4. Max Power says:

    Looks interesting. Mr. Mizrahy is wrong on one count though. Bullfighting is not going anywhere, the last year before the current economic crisis in Spain (2007) was the year with the most events ever held in history. France and Spain have both declared bullfighting a protected part of their culture over the last 3 years. In Mexico the industry is resurgent due to a new group of young promising talents. According to trademag crowds have grown 18% year on year so far this year(2015) in Spain outpacing the country’s economic recovery. Meanwhile the film’s protagonist has taken up a lucrative managerial role in Forbes Rich Lists’ Alberto Baillares’ newly founded bullfighting promotion venture FIT. Just because there are a few angry protestors it doesn’t mean that the tradition is going anywhere.

    • Barry Gray says:

      Film shows a man who is at peace with death and a Christ like way of coming back from being gored and close to death and then killing the bull who he has the closest love for. I found the film was much more than about bull fighting. Great story telling in a very simple beautiful way.

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