Running with the Bulls

The bullfight has been celebrated in art and literature as the embodiment of man’s ability to overcome his fear of death. In Spain, the country where the passionate, bloody rite has held its most hypnotic sway, no woman could legally set foot on the soil as a matador until 1975. But 22 years later, at the age of 22, Maripaz Vega became the first female matadora de toros initiated through corrida in a Spanish bullring; today, she's the world's only active professional female matador. Through Vega’s life, and that of a young Italian apprentice named Eva Florencia, Bay Area filmmakers Gemma Cubero and Celeste Carrasco explore the vibrant history of female bullfighters in Ella Es el Matador (She Is the Matador), which kicks off the "Women Make Movies" film fest Aug. 28. Such a tale must naturally include Peru’s Conchita Cintron, who began fighting at 13 and defied Spanish law by dismounting from her horse in 1949. (As the bull thundered toward her, Cintron dropped her sword, shifted her body, and placed her fingers between the beast’s shoulders to represent the killing blow. She was immediately arrested for the breaking the law against women bullfighting on foot, and was pardoned only after the crowd threatened to riot.) Lovers of documentary film should fortify themselves for the week ahead, as "Women Make Movies" celebrates its 37th year with nearly two dozen other films delving into equally brawny subjects such as war, hip-hop, hermaphrodites, and polygamy.
Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2009

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