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It’s hard not to root for the bulls while watching Ido Mizrahy‘s (Things That Hang From Trees, Patrolman P) documentary about Antonio Barrera, who bears the dubious distinction of being the “most gored bullfighter in history.” Examining the Spanish bullfighter’s obsessive determination to pursue his career despite clearly being less than equipped for the task, GORED exerts a certain queasy fascination that makes it distinctive among the recent plethora of sports-themed documentaries.
Centering on Barrera’s decision to retire for the quite reasonable desire to stay alive for the sake of his wife and two young children, the film attempts to depict him as a courageous individual intent on following his dream no matter what. But it’s rather hard to feel wholly sympathetic towards the quixotic bullfighter who at one point declares, “I’ve never had a relationship, even with a woman, as intimate as the one I have with a bull.”
Well, ok. Wonder how the wife feels about that.
Barrera, who comes across as a very nice person, was pushed into the sport by his father, a failed bullfighter himself. It was clearly not the most felicitous of career choices, since during his career he’s has been gored no less than twenty-three times, enduring seventeen surgeries as a result. In one sequence that has to be seen to be believed, he’s savagely gored by a bull and carried out of the arena, nearly bleeding to death in the process, something that he later describes as being “peaceful and beautiful.” Despite having to be intubated, he soon tears out the breathing tube and heads back into the ring.
Despite of, or maybe because of his frequent mishaps, Barrera became something of a star in the sport. Not in Spain, but rather Mexico, whose citizens apparently have a greater tendency for bloodlust. His fame there eventually became his ticket back to his native country, with the film including footage of his final match.
Before that, there are endless scenes of Barrera being repeatedly injured which come to resemble the famous “agony of defeat” montage on the vintage television series The Wide World of Sports.
Perhaps the sole voice of reason in the film is, ironically, a bullfighting critic (who knew?) who clearly doesn’t think much of Barrera’s style or technique but grudgingly admires his courage. Whether or not that misguided courage deserved to be immortalized on film is another question.
Production: Motherlode Films
Director: Ido Mizrahy
Screenwriters/producers: Ido Mizrahy
Executive producers: Selena Roberts
Director of photography: Boaz Freund
Editor: Ramon Rivera Moret
Not rated, 76 min.
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