Between 1976 and 1983 the Argentine film production decreased considerably, compared to the boom of previous years. You couldn´t expect less: The Process of National Reorganization was being carried out, a euphemism for the bloodiest dictatorship that hit the country. Unfortunately, the decline was not only quantitative but also qualitative, which transformed this period into the most ominous of our cinema, a stage that left few and bad films, many of them propoganda and full of anti-subversive messages.
The cinema, like the rest of the arts, suffered the heinous censorship of the Cinematographic Rating Agency by the censor Miguel Paulino Tato, a sadly famous character who inspired the band Sui Generis to compose the song “The Incredible Adventures of the Mr. Scissors”. Tato decided what could be shown in the cinemas and what not, under a criterion of aesthetic-ideological regulation.
As of April 1976, according to the inspector of the National Institute of Cinematography Frigate Captain Jorge Enrique Bitelson, it was reported that only projects that “exalt spiritual, moral, Christian, and historical or current values would receive State fundings. Only those about nationalism, or that affirm the concepts of family, order, respect, work, fruitful effort and social responsibility that were looking to create an optimistic attitude towards the future would receive approval”; and the exhibition of films that “totally lack artistic or entertainment values or that attempt against the purposes of reintegrating and revitalizing our community, offending the majority feelings of its inhabitants” would be prohibited.
It was to be expected then, as Fernando Varea says in his book El Cine Argentino durante la dictadura militar during the military dictatorship (2006), that the political and dramatic fictions that were shot as of March 1976 were "scarce, aesthetically poor, and thematically limited by censorship and self-censorship”. It continues: “The political euphoria that had characterized the Argentine society until days before the military coup, in the cinema suddenly disappeared”.
In this sociocultural context some directors chose exile; others –like Raymundo Gleyzer, director of the cult classic Los Traidores (1973)– were disappeared; a few found, with the approval of the de facto government, the ideal shelter to carry out their mediocre and propagandistic cinema, such as Emilio Vieyra with Comandos Azules (1979) and Comandos Azules en Acción (1980), or Ramón “Palito” Ortega who produced, directed and starred, along with his favorite actor Carlitos Balá, films that more than cinema were shameless Armed Forces propaganda, like the nefarious Dos Locos del Aire (1976) or Brigada en Acción (1977).
Football, between comedy and propaganda
It is clear that in hard periods it is easier to make comedy than drama films. A year before the last coup d'état suffered by Argentina, a film directed by Enrique Dawi was premiered with the premonitory title “Los Chiflados Dan el Golpe”, an institutional movie by the Navy disguised as a family comedy that uses as one of its main locations the School of Mechanics of the Navy, a place that in a short time would become the largest clandestine detention center in the country.
A high percentage of the national cinema produced between 1976 and 1983 –a fifth, according to Varea– was comedy films, with picaresque humor and soft sex scenes, some of them with a strong propagandistic content.
At this stage, three films related to football were released, taking advantage of the World Cup and the popularity of this sport in our country. They all used the comedy genre as a foundation: La fiesta de Todos (Sergio Renán, 1979), which mixes the classic sports documentary with humorous television sketches; and We must stop the forward line (1977) and Close Encounters with women of any type (1978), comic fiction films for adults, with football as an excuse to tell simple stories that pretended to be fun, and incidentally indoctrinate the viewers.
We must stop the forward line, produced and directed by Rafael Cohen and based on an original idea of journalists Mario Mactas and Carlos Ulanovsky, tells the story of a group of five foreign secret agents, female spies –beautiful, lethal, the classic femme fatal– that try to prevent the victory of the Argentine footbll team with tricks, traps, and subversive acts, weakening their minds and sabotaging their bodies. The leader of these foreign agents is Bulba Taras –in clear allusion to the Cossack protagonist of Tarás Bulba, a historical novel by the Russian writer Nicolái Gogol framed within romantic nationalism– a villain described as a stateless, mercenary and frigid woman.
It´s no coincidence that two of the antagonists of the film are European journalists, if one takes into account that the Videla government looked down on foreigners, especially journalists, and was preparing for a campaign that sought to clean the image of the country before the rumors of human rights violations. In this context, films with suggestive titles were released, such as “Las turistas quieren Guerra” (1977), by Enrique Cahen Salaberry, starring the comic duo formed by Alberto Olmedo and Jorge Porcel.
Pushed by the popular furor about the World Cup, on May 24, 1978 was re-launched Pelota de Trapo (1948), a classic football film directed by Leopoldo Torres Ríos; and once the championship was finished, Close Encounters with women of any type (1978), written and directed by Hugo Moser, and shot during June and August of the same year.
The film starring Olmedo and Porcel begins with images of Argentine fans entering the final’s stadium while the voice of an announcer says: “The World Cup is nearing its culmination. Within a few minutes here in River Plate will play Italy and Holland. The winner will face next Sunday against Argentina, if it wins against Peru. But Argentina has already won the World Cup. Argentina won it with the example of 25 million Argentines, young and happy people, owner of their destiny, a united and respectful country, a proud way of life, that those who attacked it without knowing it now should accept it with admiration. Argentina lives with humility this great moment of euphoria, with the humility of the great peoples.”
Although the plot of Close Encounters with Women of Any Kind does not abound in messages against what the dictators called “subversion” or in favor of the de facto government as those produced by Palito Ortega or La Fiesta de Todos, there is an insistence of an Argentina without violence where everything was joy and fraternity among its citizens. This appears both in the discourse of the first scene and in the dialogues of the female character that represents an Argentina who lives in Europe and that intends to write a book against men and football. Also in the climax of the story, which contains fiction scenes mixed with documentary images of the World Cup, with a Jorge Porcel telling his companion: “Look at the stands, the country, hurray! (...) I never imagined that I would see this show in my life. Look, Alberto, I want to cry ... what do you want me to tell you? What a country we have, Alberto!”; to which Olmedo responds excited: “Wonderful!.”
It is known of the existence of other film projects related to the World Cup, such as the films I am the goal (Adelqui Pellegrino) and Vamos, vamos Argentina (Carlos Goransky), projects that for unknown reasons never came to be released and of which not even there is a record of the shooting completed.
Were then these three films (We have to stop the forward line, Close Encounters with women of any kind and The party of all) responsible for entertaining and indoctrinating, with different levels of responsibility, Argentine families in time of dictatorship, through the humor and passion for football.