by Juliusz KOSSAKOWSKI
In the seventeenth century after the death of a young nobleman in a bullfight, the king of Portugal issued a decree requiring that the horns of a bull be sheered and covered before any bullfighting spectacle. Centuries later the killing of the bull in the ring was outlawed completely, thereby putting the finishing touches on the unique spectacle that is the Portuguese corrida.
Taking The Face is a full length documentary that explores the phenomenon of the Portuguese bullfight in all its forms, from the training of Matadors who may never kill in their own country, to the colorful Forcados who charge bulls head-on without weapons, to the costumed Cavaliers and their dancing horses, to the bizarre ritual of the Giant Fork, to the spectacle of Barrancos – the one brutal exception to the law prohibiting the killing of the bull in the arena. A world filled with contradiction, passion, faith and cruelty. Taking The Face follows the Touro Bravo from birth to death while exploring the rising polemic that may signal the tradition's demise.
Chamaco: Taking The Face follows a young Matador in training – the eighteen year old “Chamco of Alenquer” - whose boyish demeanor and enthusiasm belie the grisly nature of his occupation, as he searches for bloody glory in the arena.
The Forcados: The jolly fraternity of costumed men whose objective is ‘to take the face’ of the bull, charging it head on in a bone-crunching duel that sends bodies flying in all directions.
The Tauro Bravo: Exploring the mythos around the famed bull, the object of so much attention and controversy, it’s origins and history; we follow the Tauro Bravo from its birth, through its idyllic existence in the wild, to the final twenty minutes of its life in the ring.
The Old Bullfighter: Jose Julio, a living legend and one of Portugal’s most famous Matadors, guides us through the process of training the matador and killing the bull, explaining the details of the peculiar passion that is the ‘corrida de morte’.
The Cavaleiro: The vainglorious, laughing Cavalier who rides the famed Lusitano horse in seventeenth century costume, pursuing the bull with brightly ribboned harpoons as he is cheered on by the crowd.
Aldeia da Pointe: A tiny village in the northern edge of Portugal where the festa of the forcao takes place in homage to Saint Anthony, an event that might have been conceived by Monty Python’s Flying Circus in which a giant multi-tanged wooden fork is manned by the village’s ex-patriate sons in a pitched battle with the sacrificial bull.
Barrancos: The outlaw state within a state and the only place in Portugal where the bull is still killed in the ‘ring’ in defiance of Portuguese law. This town with its colorful history and its citizens who are descendents of smugglers and brigands, still call for the blood of the Tauro once a year in their annual homage to the Virgin.
Taking The Face interviews the men and women, trainers, veterinarians, animal rights activists, aficionados, politicians, priests, ranchers, wranglers and bullfighters as it gives a colorful, in depth view of this controversial subject.