Everyone has heard of Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, yet so few know much about it. Even fewer know that there is an elite group of runners who brave dozens of bull runs each year, risking their life to run inches away from the sharp horns of the 1000+ pound ferocious animals they revere. Chasing Red is a character-driven documentary following 4 runners across the eight bull runs of a single fiesta in Pamplona. Braving through injury and looming risk of death, they embark on an endeavor that will shape their lives forever.
Written and directed by Dennis Clancey, Chasing Red is a 2015 documentary film about Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls. This exhilarating event, which has been happening for at least a century, involves hundreds of runners escape from a charging pack of six bulls, often with devastating consequences. The film focuses on 4 runners across the eight bull runs of a single fiesta and as these runners take the risk of injury and death head on, Clancey and his team follow the individuals as they embark upon the adventure of their lives.
The exhilarating action of Running of the Bulls is captured by Clancey in some of the most exciting ways possible. As people start to sprint away from the bulls, Clancey manages to record the action from the balconies above, providing a birds eye vantage point of the chase unfurling below. Interspersed with this is footage from ground zero, where the herd of big, muscular bulls are waiting to charge at a sea of masses. As the bulls zig zag in the narrow streets, hundreds of people start running before them, most saving themselves by barely an inch. Before the bulls are discharged into the narrow alleyways, Clancey is on the ground coaching and advising the runners; apprising them of what even a slight mistake can do to their bodies and their lives.
Chasing Red does not shy away from the blood and it is this raw and unfiltered peek into the crazy world of Pamplona makes the whole experience even better. Nothing is fake here, all of what is shown has really happened and what makes the whole thing even more exciting is anticipating which of the runners will get mauled by the bulls. While it might be apt to call the participants of this event insane, people train for months before the actual event in anticipation of the gruelling physical and mental conditions that they will face in the arena.
Another great thing that Chasing Red manages to accomplish is realising the passion that the masses continue to have for this event. It is hard to fathom that people from thousands of miles away come to Spain each year for this, but they do and they manage to make a big spectacle out of it. From news crews to hundreds of medics, the Running of the Bulls manages to be an event unlike any other on the face of this planet. You must be there to experience it and those who do, are never the same again.
Running (pun intended) at just over an hour, the film manages to summarise the myth and mystery of Pamplona in just about the most effective manner possible. From the mindset of the participants to what happens when things go terribly wrong, Chasing Red is a completely unfiltered and unadulterated peek inside this mystical world; one that will both impress and inspire. The editing is razor sharp and the pacing keeps the audiences on their toes, resulting in a pulse pounding thrill ride that is more akin to an action film chase scene as opposed to a real life documentary.
Exciting, exhilarating and deeper than we thought it would be; Chasing Red is a fantastic insight into the ages old traditions of Pamplona. The film serves as a potent entry point for those who are barely familiar with this event and for the masses who worship and commemorate it, Chasing Red is a celebration of their passion and perseverance. Dennis Clancey has made a magnificent film, one that goes deep into this infamous event, both educating and entertaining us in the process.