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Santi Deva

Horses through fire - A (very) short documentary I made using RX100's 100fps feature

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It's actually a documentary, that is, it documents without any glorification or demonization and it's obviously for a political party that stands for animal rights, so I don't see the problem. People nowadays really seem to need hysterical ranting of housewives and crying children in 'documentaries'. :p

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Breathtaking images. The outrageous subject of them make them even stronger. The riders of the Apocalypse. But, to be honest, in order to make the point, the film should have shown more empathy for the anxiety of the animals. Because this ritual really violates their primal instincts, and in the way you presented it, there is still too much understanding for the dark fascination that let the tradition survive.

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It's actually a documentary, that is, it documents without any glorification or demonization and it's obviously for a political party that stands for animal rights, so I don't see the problem. People nowadays really seem to need hysterical ranting of housewives and crying children in 'documentaries'. :p

haha, I agree with the premise of what you're saying. The filming and editing seemed not to suggest any 'political or animal rights' affiliation but more of a slow mo spectacle of the abuse of horses by some fat middle aged men. Which is ok if you're into that sort of thing. 

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It's actually a documentary, that is, it documents without any glorification or demonization and it's obviously for a political party that stands for animal rights, so I don't see the problem. People nowadays really seem to need hysterical ranting of housewives and crying children in 'documentaries'. :p

The uploader is from the PACMA organisation that highlights animal rights issues, which is a totally valid cause to document traditions such as these for discussion. Unfortunatly the edit and slow motion presentation of the imagery makes it questionable if it is a celebration of the tradition. Context is key - without any counterpoint to the documentation of celebration, one assumes the filmmaker has no objection to it. 

This is not diluting a neutral observation of a good documentary - it is simply having a voice, or including another point of view.

The images are very striking and haunting - but that is mostly due to the subject matter being documented in slow motion. Cinematic language has taught most audiences to associate slow motion and ambient soundscapes as depictions of beauty, not for critical study.The end text at the end of the video does identify the organisation and its intention, but without that, there is no difference to it being a promotional video for the "Luminarias" celebration. Imagine any 'pro' horse burning idiots having their organisation logo at the end of that video, and you will read a different connotation from the ambiguous images.

I totally applaud the maker of this video for it's apparent intention, but feel it is a very muddled presentation when shown in isolation. If it were the opening sequence to a longer-form documentary about traditions involving animal abuse and if they should be outlawed - it would be a very striking montage that would certainly grab audience attention. 

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I thought that this was amazing & achieved exactly what it set out to do - you all seem to have recoiled at the images & knew that it was presenting absolute cruelty towards horses.

I also felt that the use of slow motion & the soundscape to be an inspired twist to the norm that we associate with their use - as Hans said "Cinematic language has taught most audiences to associate slow motion and ambient soundscapes as depictions of beauty...". The application of this technique was surely to implicate the audience as an accomplice to such acts & by doing so makes their reaction to these "beautiful" images even more intense - you recoil twice as hard precisely because of the dichotomy of the images (beautiful & grotesque).

Also, the PACMA badge was presented throughout & so wasn't hard to realise that this wasn't a glorification. If you felt that it was, then the filmmaker did his job as he placed you into a position that was contrary to your sensibilities & his manipulation of you was complete. The crucial moment for me was when one of the horses fell over in the middle of the fire & it jerked me back to reality - he made me an accomplice, but allowed me to come to my senses. This is what animal rights is all about and sometimes its best to just show something in order to let the audience decide.

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Thanks a lot for all the feedback, I appreciate it very much.

Just to clarify a couple of things:

I'm a freelance videojournalist, I don't work for the Animalist Party nor I belong to them. I do take some assignments from them from time to time to do journalistic work: go to places where there might be animal abuse and document that. Although this video was my idea. I went there by my own and later offered it to them. If you don't find the event abusive with the horses, that's completely fine. It wasn't my intention to make the audience react negatively towards it. I used a cinematic style but it's still a journalistic piece. I'm limited in the sense that I must be accurate with what I saw in the storytelling, without exaggerated or misleading pictures. I wasn't focusing on the aesthetics, but the event is beauty in itself. I used a dark atmosphere trying to make the audience feel uncomfortable.  The video edit is focused on the horses, on the worst things I witnessed. I didn't see any burns in the horses, although I could smell the burned hair. I think the abuse here is more phychologycal than pshysical. Fire is something all animals fear and avoid instinctively and humans here are forcing them to jump through it. Of course this is a very small thing compared to bullfighting or skin an animal alive for fur but it's useful to talk about tradition and the relationship between humans and animals. The result wasn't bad at all. Four newspapers picked the story, El País, the biggest one in Spain among them.

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I wasn't focusing on the aesthetics, but the event is beauty in itself

Good reply Santi, the capturing of the 'beauty' of this event was evident in your film. I think Bioskop may have over interpreted your intentions there. 

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On repeat viewings and clearer thinking through of its intention - it is a powerful piece. But I'm still torn between thinking if its presentation style helps or hinders the intended purpose.

As a filmmaker: I see beauty,history,trauma in the images - like a moving painting from the napoleonic war. I can appreciate the artistic merit of images separate from the subject matter and its possible controversy. Some beautiful images can be found from very ugly things.  

As a 'regular' guy: I see pointless trauma being inflicted onto animals but presented in a confusing way that reminds me of a high budget car commercial.

I guess my only feeling is that I'd prefer to see it as part of a longer documentary that invested time into the people who contribute to the tradition, as well as those who appose it. Having a montage with slow motion 'beauty and wonder' aesthetic is a powerful cinematic tool, my comment regarding this being an unwise choice is subjective.

As Bioskop said -  'you recoil twice as hard precisely because of the dichotomy of the images (beautiful & grotesque)'. - I partly agree with that, but I think the issue I have is the clash of cinematic visuals next to intended journalistic reportage. It may possible to combine these, but very hard to convey a clear message in short-form without those (sometimes) overpowering aesthetics being noticed. You at least need a balance there.

In any case Santi - you did a good job in documenting the event, the fact that there is an ambiguity in the presentation style only adds to the impact and help provoke discussion.

It's an interesting case study on how 'real-life' imagery can be presented in a cinematic style - and what ramifications that may have to the viewer when trying to take a neutral stance from a journalistic/ documentary perspective.

 

Why could they not be riding Donald Trump through those flames instead?

 

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I think Bioskop may have over interpreted your intentions there. 

That's what a PhD in Horror films will do to you.

Got to remember that intentions of a filmmaker & audience/critic interpretations can be different, normally are.

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That's definitely become more evident to me from reading 'The Revenant' thread. 

Yeah that thread, but better than talking about Tarantino - the most over rated director out there, who just steals from others & doesn't really have any original ideas of his own.

I like David Lynch's approach - he doesn't really talk about his films, just lets the audience [try to] figure it out for themselves.

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