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Iremar works at the "Vaquejadas", a rodeo in the North East of Brazil where two men on horseback try bring down a bull by grabbing its tail. It's dusty and back-breaking work, but Iremar is a natural vaqueiro feeding, prepping and taking care of the bulls. Home is the truck used to transport the animals from show to show which he shares with his coworkers; Galega, an exotic dancer, truck driver and mother to her spirited and cheeky daughter Cacá, and Zé, his rotund compadre in the bull pen. Together they form a makeshift but close-knit family. But Brazil and the Northeast are changing and the region's booming clothing industry has stirred new ambitions in Iremar. Swinging in his hammock in the back of the truck, his head is filled with dreams of pattern cutting, sequins and exquisite fabrics as he mentally assembles his latest sexy fashion designs. Written by
When the programme of 2015's London Film Festival described 'Neon Bull' as containing "scenes of sexual frankness" I didn't expect one of them to feature a man masturbating a horse! But such is the world of South American rodeos as featured in this Brazilian/Uruguayan/Dutch co-production.
The film follows a group who transport unfortunate bulls from rodeo to rodeo. Galega is the driver, mother to annoying young daughter Cacá and occasional dancer for men who like to see women in sparkly costumes and horses-head masks (a niche market, I should think). Those costumes are made by Iremar, who also manhandles the bulls before they're sent into the arena, but who dreams of being instead a tailor in a clothing factory. There's also Zé, a fat buffoon of a man who serves as the film's comedy relief, and Júnior, who like Iremar is not the traditional macho stereotype of the South American male - he hauls bulls with the best of them, but then spends hours in front of the mirror fixing his hair. There's no central plot line as such; instead the film follows the characters through their daily lives, including one or two dramatic set-pieces such as the incident with the horse, and then ends.
This is not a film for prudes: sequences such as the horse incident, and a lengthy sex scene involving a heavily-pregnant woman, ensure that. Nor is it a film for those concerned with animal welfare: there are several distressing shots of the bulls being pulled to the ground as horseriders yank their tails, and the film opens with a shot of the bulls crammed so tightly into their pen that the head of one is being crushed beneath the flanks of another. I very much hope that these scenes were not enacted simply for the film but were filmed at actual rodeos, although that itself would be bad enough: in life as in art, animals should not suffer for human entertainment.
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