Jon Frankel Of HBO's 'Real Sports' Discusses Future Of Bullfighting In Spain
SBD Global: What is the piece's main point of emphasis?
Jon Frankel: We spend a good amount of time telling you what this sport is about, literally the A's, B's and C's and how it works. We take you behind and show you the matador coming into the ring, we show you the matador who prays and has a small shrine in his hotel room as he's getting dressed, because the possibility of death is ever-present. And then we segue into, 'Hey, how long is this going to be around?'
SBD Global: Why was HBO interested in looking at the sport at this particular time?
Frankel: The same thing [that was the case with a February episode about cockfighting] applies to bullfighting. Many people have been to a bullfight at one point or another and don't know a whole lot about it. You're talking about a cultural tradition that goes back several hundred years and you have the same animal rights activist issues involved. When you ask, 'Why now?' ... it's been happening for a couple of years now. It goes back to 2012, when Barcelona banned it, so it doesn't take place there. The animal rights political party is gaining momentum. They won something like 1,000 seats across all of Spain in the latest elections that they held. So not enough to give them any real influence yet in government, but certainly gaining momentum. We're also not in the heart of a season for any one of the major sports.
SBD Global: How would you describe the atmosphere during your trip to Seville?
Frankel: One of the great things is that it's sort of a mix of US Open Tennis meeting Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. If you hit it the week that we hit it, which is the big festival in Seville, it is a week-long festival. All the people, no matter where you go in the city -- and it's not just limited to those who have money -- the women put on traditional dresses and the men put on their suits that were worn 50, 60 or 100 years ago and their big brimmed hats. It really does look like you're shooting sort of a Spaghetti Western in terms of the clothing. ... It's just an incredible sight when you get to experience the culture in that way.
|Frankel, left, and matador Juan José Padilla.
Frankel: It would seem that the traditions are hard to run away from. My guess is that over time, it will peter out, though there still are a lot of people who are making a living off of it. When you watch what happens in Seville in this one week at this festival, you see that they're not so quick to change this. Even the matadors, when you ask them the question, what they'll say is, 'Well, I hope ...' And hope is one thing, but I think in their minds, when they think about it intellectually, they have to know that ultimately this is going to come to an end. Part of that is you just look at the landscape. Today's youth revere the soccer stars in Spain. They don't so much revere the matador and they don't relate to it either. They might have grown up with it, but as Cayetano [Rivera Ordóñez] says, 'They're so busy playing video games and sitting behind a computer, they don't understand -- and maybe they don't want to understand -- the realities of life and death.' If you don't appreciate that component of it, then how long does this sport have?