What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
Antonio Barrera is the most gored bullfighter in modern history. Will he survive his final performance?
Now what’s it REALLY about?
“Gored” is about the pursuit of immortality and fame, to the point of idolizing death. Antonio was first put in front of the bulls when he was seven-years-old by his father – himself a failed bullfighter – and was expected to become a great matador. But he never quite had the goods and was punished repeatedly by the bulls, being gored 23 times and undergoing numerous operations. Antonio realized early on that he didn’t fear death, and actually found his near-death experiences liberating. That freeing sensation coupled with the belief that death was a gateway to ever-lasting glory pushed Antonio to sacrifice himself every time he went before the bulls. Many of Antonio’s bullfighting “gods” had cemented their place in the history books by dying in the bullring. But becoming a father and husband finally forced him to make a choice. For the first time in his life he actually feared death and realized he wanted to live for his wife and children, but that would mean walking away from bullfighting. His final performance was an impossible clash between wanting to do the right thing for his family, and his undying wish to have more more chance at glory.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I’m a director and a writer of both fiction and non fiction. I’ve lived in New York for the past 15 years and very much think of it as my home. All my films played at New York Festivals (first one at ND/NF and second one at DOC NYC) and this is my first time at Tribeca, which I’m pretty excited about. The stories that interest me often have to do with people who operate on the outskirts of society. But isn’t that what most great stories are about?
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
The biggest challenge for me was balancing my issues with bullfighting, with my wish to make an intimate portrait of Barrera and this painful junction in his life, without judging his choices and the world he operated in. Choosing him as a subject allowed me to show the world of bullfighting, while very romantic to Antonio and the people closest to him, in a very honest, bloody and brutal way, that was finally devoid of romance.
What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?
I think there are a couple of interesting takeaways from this story. The first one is simpler and easy to identify with and it has to do with the difference between the life choices we genuinely make on our own and the ones we are conditioned to make, like some kind of broken dream hand-me-downs. Another interesting takeaway is our fear of not being remembered, and how we fight for that not to happen. We want to matter. And lastly an idea that is not addressed head-on in the film, but was very much on my mind when I made it, is our relationship with the animals we raise and ultimately kill and eat. Bullfighting has a way of doing that in the open, and doesn’t attempt to hide our innate desire to kill. It also shows our futile desire to tame nature. Inevitably we lose that battle.
Any films inspire you?
I have many favorite films and directors who changed my life. Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” is one that comes to mind of the more recent ones. Doesn’t get more raw that that. Of the old ones I would say “Sweet Smell of Success” is up there, as well as Pennebaker’s “The War Room” and of course Maysles’ “Salesman”. All over the map..
A couple of different projects – both fiction, non-fiction and non-movie related altogether.
What cameras did you shoot on?
We shot on the Sony F3 with vintage Leica lenses.
Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?
My writing/producing partner, Geoff Gray, had written a really beautiful article about Antonio Barrera and his father for Sports Illustrated a few years ago, and spent months traveling with him in Spain. When Geoff found out Antonio was retiring he approached me about making a short film about it. That short was originally financed by the prolific sports-writer turned producer Selena Roberts. But when we came back from Mexico and watched the footage we realized the story was deeper and much more intricate than we had originally imagined. Luckily Selena had the vision and guts to green-light a longer version, while supporting us in every way and lending her sharp storytelling skills to the editing process too. Valda Witt joined a little later and helped us get to the finish line. She saw the potential in the doc-in-making from the first bit of footage she saw and was an incredible partner throughout.
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.