Generally, documentaries retrace history by examining particular accomplishments of an individual. But, “The Matador” goes far beyond the norm and establishes bullfighting under a uniquely different light of understanding.
The film was shown, recently, at the South by Southwest Film Festival, in Austin, Texas, where it was viewed by some 800 people, who stayed to applaud the remarkable production. It will soon be shown nationwide.
Directed by Stephen Higgins and Nina Gilden Seavey, the film encompasses three years in the life of Matador David Fandillo “El Fandi”, and in so doing, presents a new perspective to an otherwise controversial subject.
Opening during a training session in Granada, it demonstrates the life of a man that only incidentally is that of El Fandi. It could have focused on any young torero, highlighting his triumphs and failures, his pain and sacrifice. Above all, it demonstrates the brand of intense personal determination that involves any man (or woman) who chooses bullfighting as a career and is willing to accept the bitter, in order to greater enjoy the sweet.
Many of the scenes in The Matador were shot in Plaza de Acho, the 242-year-old plaza de toros that introduced La Fiesta Brava to the Americas.
The excellent narration by José Antonio del Moral accomplishes more than merely recounting the highlights of the career of a torero, but likewise responds to the anti-bullfight crowd. In fact, film critic Kim Voynar admits being prejudiced against bullfighting, before seeing The Matador, but now admits that the production provides “a new perspective of the pain, sacrifice, and triumph” of bullfighting.
Director Stephen Higgins, of California, has exhibited his previous works in Europe, the U.S.A., and Asia. He studied at the Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston.
The Matador will be show in Chicago, this coming September and if the crowd acceptance is as enthusiastic as it was in Austin, here is a documentary that is destined to be exposed to a worldwide market. Do I smell an Oscar? The Matador certainly deserves to be considered for one.