Every so often a film comes along that is vile in nature based, alone, on the subject matter it portrays; every so often this same film will be well produced, poignant, often beautiful and vastly entertaining. This is certainly the case with the new documentary The Matador
, which follows the career of David Fandila, over the course of a few years, as he attempts to anoint himself among the greatest matadors in Spain's history.The Matador
provides more depth on the sport of bullfighting than, frankly, I ever wanted. It is no secret bullfighting is a brutal exhibition, the shock comes when you realize just how
brutal it is. Honestly, I lost track of how many bulls I witnessed losing control of their bowls before finally being put out of their misery by being stabbed in the spinal column or brain over the course of this relatively short seventy minute documentary.
To its credit, the film does completely shy away from the dissenting opinion that bullfighting is, in essence, a barbaric sport and, briefly, offers a forum for the dissenting opinion of some journalists. Of course, the film also depicts defenders of this tradition, insisting that it is no different than slaughtering a bull for food and that matadors often pardon the bull from slaughter, allowing it to live out its life grazing in a pasture. This may be the case but -- spoiler alert -- no bulls are pardoned in any of the exhibitions shown during this feature.
All of this aside, the true focus of The Matador
is, well, the matador. Or, more specifically, David Fandila. Fandila, by all accounts, is a nice enough guy and is revered in Spain as an athlete like Tom Brady
would be in the United States. Growing up, Fandila's dream was to be a bullfighter, just like every kid growing up in the cornfields of Iowa had a dream of playing baseball. The only difference would be if there was an inherent risk of death every time one steps out on the baseball diamond (yes, I am fully aware Ray Chapman died during a Major League Baseball game in 1920).
Over the course of a few seasons we follow Fandila's quest to complete one hundred bullfights in one calendar year which had only been accomplished twelve times prior. All too often, injuries, varying from minor to life threatening -- and be prepared to see the gory visuals -- seem to impede Fandila from reaching his goal.
Whether your opinion of bullfighting falls on the side of a ritual of tradition or as a savage inhumane spectacle, there is, undeniably, something quite poetic about the choreography and showmanship of the matador himself. There is no question these men risk their lives every time they enter the arena; that risk often pays off with an unrelenting love from the crowd, but after viewing The Matador
, it is hard not to wonder at what price ... physically and morally.
Story by Mike Ryan
Starpulse contributing writer