FilmWorks // 2012 // 53 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // December 9th, 2012
"Thrilling, detested, adored. This is the San Fermin festival."
As is pointed out in Running with Bulls, most American students run with the bulls vicariously through Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Quite a few, apparently, actually go to Pamplona to be penned in on narrow streets with large, fast-moving bulls and hopefully not be maimed.
The tradition started because someone just decided to do it -- and others joined that first runner. In 1923, Hemingway showed up to write it into his novel, and a lot of his readers showed up after reading it.
Sky News reporter Jason Farrell decided not just to show up, but to run and to cover the event from all angles. He starts by showing the bulls training for their all-too-brief careers. He follows runners, including veterans and five newbies from England, and matadors. Everywhere, you hear about the many injuries each year to runners and matadors alike. The run even begins with a tribute to a runner who was gored to death the previous year.
Although the risks are always quite clear in Running with Bulls, there were two times when I was actually shocked. One was when a woman was seriously injured, not in the running but in the revels surrounding the event. The other was a shot that showed a bull slipping on the Pamplona cobbles, giving me mental pictures of the bull just landing on someone, with more injury to the person than to the bull.
Farrell does a good job at showing both the obvious risks and the motivations of the people who take them. His documentary looks slick and exciting, but never takes on the glamorous sheen of an old-fashioned travelogue. It's well-shot and well-produced, for a good overview of the experience.
If, after watching and seeing how dangerous it is, you still are considering heading over to Pamplona and running (you can actually do it virtually at the local museum), there's a guide to the event, including one last-ditch escape route on the course (very important!). There's also a photo gallery set to music and a trailer.
Near the end of Running with Bulls, activists are shown protesting the event. The documentary isn't an animal-rights video, but just showing the run through the modern digital lens might do more to discourage viewers from actually doing this. By getting on the course and doing it himself, with cameras on ground level, Farrell presented the event as something that -- while it can be thrilling to watch on TV, at home -- is always dangerous.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 53 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Runner's Guide
* Photo Gallery