During the month of June, 2010, while the Spanish selection team was on its unstoppable march to its first world title in football (?soccer? for Americans), Spanish cinema theatre attendance plummeted. According to European Audiovisual Observatory data, in those 30 days of low earnings, box-office figures hardly topped 30 million Euros. This was a sharp decline from other months in this period and far below the 80,000,000 Euros of receipts recorded in January, the best month of 2010. The low monetary figure amounted to some 6 million spectators enjoying the Seventh Art on the big screen in the dark, air-conditioned theatres across Spain.
Based on what happened in 2010, it would appear that this year?s summer season for film earnings won?t be very promising, either. Combined with the European Cup football contest
in June, the Olympic Games in London
will be held from July 27 to August 12, as well. And, of course, the Olympics also include football competitions.
So, how has cinema, especially Latin American and Spanish, reacted over the years to this bruising battle to draw the biggest audiences? Well, it has often been a good sport, dealing with its grand rival football in a friendly manner and, on many occasions, with good humour as comedies.
Let?s take a look at some of the most important Latin American and Spanish film productions
dedicated to the game in which 22 players fight over the ball on a grassy pitch.
The referee has blown the starting whistle. Let?s go!
The big misunderstandings, the targets of all the critics ? referees as a group are the starting point for this retrospective on films about football. The pair of directors, ?The Squad? so to speak, consisting of Santiago Aguilar
and Luis Guridi
devoted a film titled Matías, Juez de Línea
to the referee assistants.Carlos de Gabriel
plays the incorruptible linesman who calls the penalty which will end the hopes of the Spanish Selection team to qualify for the World Cup. Following this fateful decision, to save himself from the ire of the whole country, he will have no choice but to seek refuge in a rather odd, off-the-beaten-track town in Galicia.Carlos de Gabriel
is joined in the cast by other comedy-genre actors like Ramón Barea, Manuel Manquiña
and Álex Angulo.
Following the line-up characteristic of a football team, next come the goalkeepers. Actors Fernando Tejero, Carmelo Gómez
and Diego Luna
have played those who guard the goal posts.
In El penalti más largo del mundo (The Longest Penalty Shot in the World),
Tejero fulfils any goalkeeper?s dream by becoming a hero when he successfully guards a penalty shot, becoming a hero for the team. The problem lies in the supreme suffering he has to endure when the referee delays the penalty shot for a week after the field was invaded by a public irate with his calls.
The ?title line-up?
of this film includes María Botto
and Fernando Cayo
, all under the direction of Roberto Santiago
, who calls the filmmaking orders from the sidelines.
In the same jovial vein, there is the Mexican production Rudo y Cursi
, which features a cast led by Gael García Bernal
and Diego Luna
plays a goalkeeper
whose main rival is not on the opposing team, but rather in his own family, his upstart brother played by García Bernal. They compete with each other to see who can get ahead in life.
Wrapping up this trio of films focused on goalies, there is Carmelo Gómez
and the film El Portero (The Goalkeeper)
. Based on the story by journalist and writer Manuel Hidalgo
, this film presents the tale of Ramiro
, a First Division team goalkeeper
who earns his living after the Spanish Civil War by going from town to town challenging the locals to attempt penalty shots. Gonzalo Suárez
directs actors Maribel Verdú
, Roberto Álvarez
, Eduard Fernandez
and Antonio Resines
in addition to Carmelo Gómez
Moving on from those whose job it is to keep the other team?s score at nil, we come to players whose task is to do precisely the opposite ? that is to say, those move about the field with such talent and grace with scoring goals their main objective, the forwards
. And, in this case, we aren?t talking about just any that have had the privilege, but rather, two Argentine football legends: Alfredo Di Stefano
and Diego Armando Maradona
.Di Stefano, Honorary President of the Real Madrid Football Club
participated in two films, La saeta rubia
and La batalla del domingo
. In the first, two juvenile delinquents steal the great Don Alfredo?s
wallet. But, overcome by their love for Real Madrid, nicknamed the estrella blanca
(?white star?), they decide to return it to him. The star forward shows his gratitude by founding a football team with the boys called ?La saeta.?
La batalla del domingo shows us the simple life of Di Stefano
, winner of five European Cups
. In his daily routine, in addition to training, we see him taking a well-deserved siesta, or taking his children to school or playing the card game mus.
A rival to Di Stefano
for the title of best player of all time is another widely-loved Argentine, Maradona
. So many films have been made directly or indirectly featuring this player nicknamed ?El Pelusa?
(for his abundant curly hair) that he has his own film genre, called ?Maradoniano.?
Two noteworthy documentaries devoted to the star from Buenos Aires are Amando a Maradona (Loving Maradona)
and Maradona por Kusturika
, the latter directed by Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturika
. And, feature films focused on the player who wore the number ?10? include Maradona, la mano de Dios (Maradona, the Hand of God)
, Camino a San Diego (The Road to San Diego)
and El día que Maradona conoció a Gardel
. Diego Maradona
became inured with football in the shantytown barrio of Villa Fiorito
. Boys from a barrio also were the stars of the film Días de Futbol (Soccer Days)
. This line-up had David Serrano
directing this hilarious comedy about a group of friends who decide to participate in a tournament, the actors making something of a cinema ?Dream Team?
: Secun de la Rosa
as goalkeeper, and with field players Fernando Tejero
, Ernesto Alterio
, Alberto San Juan
, Pere Ponce
, Roberto Álamo
and Luis Bermejo
Another top star, but of performance and culture, in general, is Fernando Fernán Gómez
, who also had a turn wearing a footballer?s uniform in El Fenómeno (1956)
. José Elorrieta
directed this comedy in which Fernán Gómez
played a German scientist
confused with a Russian football star
From the same decade as El Fenómeno
is another comedy dealing with two subjects that seem at times to be fixtures attached to this sport: the fervent passion of the fans and rumours about underhanded tricks in the matches. Titled Once pares de botas (?Eleven pairs of football shoes?)
, it?s about the difficult situation Ignacio
, played by José Suárez
, finds himself in when he is harassed by an adoring fan and also discovers that two of his fellow players have been bribed.
Women?s football has also been portrayed on the big screen in Las Ibéricas F.C
. The film directed by Pedro Masó
reflects the decade in which it was made, the 1970s. The football team in it consists of actresses Rosana Yanni
, Ingrid Garbo
, Tina Sainz
, Claudia Gravy
and Puri Villa
and their characters have unique love lives from playing this sport.
We conclude this review of some of the best Hispano and Latin American works of cinema in which football plays a special role with the latest in this genre, En fuera de juego
. Fernando Tejero
again stars in it, this time joined by Diego Peretti
, and the film is a humorous spin on how this game can sometimes bring whole countries to a standstill. Both actors play failures who try to triumph as representatives of the players.
Films and football ? two competitors seeking to attract the largest audiences. Despite the perennial rush of spectators from the former to the latter, films end up winning out. Cinema
, after all, is the only one left standing as genuine art