Toro Negro

Ani Khashadoorian

Violence is often fictionalized and revered in the movies; a sharp shot here, a spurt of blood there, a body on the ground – but the veil of fiction covers a harsh reality, as seen in ‘Toro Negro’ (Black Bull). Motion picture violence is nothing compared to the violence that is a stable feature of many people’s lives; slaughterhouse violence, domestic violence and the violence of day-to-day survival that is the stark reality of life in rural Mexico. Directed by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio and Carlos Armella, ‘Toro Negro’ shows a cinematic insight into a culture of violence that hasn’t been seen before.

‘Toro Negro’ is a documentary about a young bullfighter, 21-year-old Fernando Pacheco, also known as El Suicida and El Negro, who performs at rural fairs in the Yucatán Peninsula, the real fighting circuit not seen in popular depictions of this cruel sport. Fernando relies on liquid courage to get through his fights, his pain, and ultimately, his entire life.

With his vibrant personality and equally as violent moods, Fernando rages on in his job, but the anger and alcoholism extend to his personal life. Fernando’s ambition is apparent, as is his dependency on liquor. Violent episodes with his girlfriend Romelia, an older woman who is also pregnant with his child seem almost inevitable. As he beats Romelia in front of her daughters in one scene, his desperation and vulnerability strike the viewer even as he batters his woman, whose options are even more bleak than his own.

‘Toro Negro’ is an unflinching look at the life of a bullfighter struggling to survive with the circumstances of his life and his inner demons; showcasing the real consequences and effects of violence. With edgy cinematography and equally sharp editing, the rapid-fire pace of the film swings with Fernando and his world.

Tragedy and terror fill the film, as true brutality shines through Fernando’s fight to hold onto his life, even as he falls into an ever-worsening downward spiral. ‘Toro Negro’ is not rated and audiences should be aware that this documentary does contain footage of animal abuse and domestic violence. It is, at times, disturbing and not intended for younger (or squeamish) viewers.

‘Toro Negro’ runs 87 minutes and is distributed by Cinema Tropical.

Spanish with English subtitles