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By Angelique Flores | Posted: 25 Jan 2009

Prebook 1/27/09; Street 2/24/09
City Lights
Box Office $0.02 million, $24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray
Not rated.
In Spanish with English subtitles.

I’ve always been fascinated with the centuries-old tradition of bullfighting — the matadors and their beautifully ornate outfits, the bright capes they flash, and the dance between the bullfighter and his horned opponent.

But stripped down to its primal essence, it’s a savage, bloody sport.

The documentary The Matador touches upon some of those traditions behind bullfighting as it follows bullfighter David “El Fandi” Fandilo during two years of his career.

The film opens in his hometown of Granada, Spain, in spring 2003. He is 21 years old and has the goal to complete 100 corridas (bullfights) during one season — a goal only 12 matadors have ever reached in Spain.

Outside the ring El Fandi is a quiet, reserved young man with a big, child-like grin. But inside the ring he transforms into a fierce man who puts on the show spectators come to see.

While he has some tough moments and injuries — one of which takes him out for a season — El Fandi finally reaches his goal in 2005.

The film explains the rituals of the sport while showing the training and sacrifice it requires from El Fandi as well as his team and family.

Viewers hear from El Fandi’s family and his managers, as well as Spanish authors, journalists and fans, who talk about bullfighting’s history and influence on Spain.

Still, the documentary doesn’t ignore the brutality of bullfighting and points out its many protesters. I’m no staunch animal rights proponent, but I found it difficult to watch the bulls being stabbed and killed.

The Matador
does a great job of using El Fandi’s story as a vehicle to reveal the world of bullfighting and the dichotomy of a ritual in which the bull is savagely killed for sport, yet it is also respected and talked about in almost a human-like way.


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