Sheffield Documentary Festival: The Boy and the Suit of Lights (2024) (El niño y el traje de luces)

The Boy and the Suit of Lights is a raw documentary by Inma De Reyes that uncovers an insider’s view of some of the tensions between traditional and modern Spain.

The Lord of the Bullrings

by Alexa Dalby

The Boy and the Suit of Lights

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The way out of poverty in the US was either through sport or entertainment. In Spain, there’s a third way to possibly make big money – by risking your life bullfighting.

This absorbing documentary follows young Borja in the coastal town of Castellón in the province of Valencia. The child of a single mother (a widow) in a poor household, he is groomed by his grandfather, with the help of his younger brother, into becoming a matador and saving the family finances.

Everything in Castellón, and Borja’s life, seems to revolve around the historic Plaza de Toros in the centre of town – its bullfighting school in the bullring, which Borja attends; buying Borja his first suit of lights, the traditional costume of a matador, (which his mother will have difficulty paying for); the black plaster bulls on the fairground roundabout; and even Borja’s first communion cake has a miniature model of a bull on it.

You can marvel at how director Inma de Reyes (Edinburgh College of Art) achieved such close and intimate access to Borja’s family over a long period of time. That’s her skill as a woman of Spanish heritage and a filmmaker. The effect of our eavesdropping on their lives is raw.

As a background, she shows the passage of time through traditional, typical festivals from the region: the arrival by boat of the Three Kings, La Madalena and its firecrackers (specific to Castellón) and, of course, the corrida and its packed crowd – and the modern phenomenon of protestors. She also finds a group of youths discussing what else they could do (just fishing or picking oranges) and the effect for them if, unbelievably, the modern, socialist government banned the cruel sport of bullfighting.

So Spain, and Castellón in microcosm, is in transition: the line between traditional and modern is strained. What happened to Borja? The film leaves that ambiguous, but <spoiler alert> if you look at the website of the Plaza de Toros, there’s a poster (below) from March 2024 that shows he has persevered – even if he’s still bottom of the bill.

The Boy And The Suit Of Lights was produced byAconite Productions with the support of Screen Scotland, Chicken & Egg and Rustic Canyon. International sales are by Syndicado.


The Boy and the Suit of Lights has its World Premiere on 14 June 2024 in the International First Feature competition of the Sheffield Documentary Festival, which runs from 12-17 June 2024. he Boy And The Suit Of Lights won the Grand Jury award for International First Feature. The International First Feature Competition honours the future of non-fiction film and celebrates promising new talent and is supported by Netflix. The jury said “The jury has chosen the winning film for its visually stunning reflection on culture and society, told through the journey of a boy finding his way to manhood. It triggers an inner discussion, challenging our ideas about the modern world versus fading traditions and beliefs.”

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