Trove to treasure | Marañón’s ‘Fútbol y cine’ makes marriage work between film and soccer

Starting with the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, we have the forgettable Game of Their Lives, another American squib (see 29 Jan 05). Fortunately, though, for subsequent Cups the entries become more inspired, including the 2003 German production Das Wunder von Bern, concerning West Germany’s pivotal victory over Hungary in 1954; Garrincha, alegria do povo (Garrincha, hero of the jungle), a 1962 documentary covering the 1958 and 1962 tournaments as well as the upbringing and dribbling skills of the bandy-legged Brazilian genius; La meglio gioventù (The best of youth), a major 2003 release from Italy that documents, from one family’s perspective, significant occurrences over 40 years of Italian history, with an early segment mentioning North Korea’s shock defeat of the Italians at England ’66; Andrea Varzini‘s Italia-Germania 4-3, replaying, with a time-travel element, the famous match from 1970.

The 1982 World Cup in Spain features briefly in the 1997 Historias de fútbol (Football stories), a Chilean movie directed by Andrés Wood. The last segment in the three-story structure includes a first-round match between Chile and West Germany, which islanders on the remote Chiloé pick up, with static-filled intervals, on a battery-powered black-and-white television. In Marañón’s compilation, his command of the material expresses itself in allusions to films only casually about the world game. For the 1990 World Cup, for example, he describes Zendegi va digar hich (Life, and nothing more), an Abbas Kiarostami film from 1991 in which victims of an earthquake plan to see the tournament despite the devastation. Good-Bye, Lenin! similarly mentions the 1990 tournament as part of protagonists’ plans to sell satellite TV in post-unification East Berlin. The 1994 World Cup appears briefly in Die Hard: With a Vengeance. More meaningfully, a 1994 Dutch documentary, Solo, de wet van de favela (Solo, the law of the favela), chronicles young Brazilians’ dreams of playing for the Seleção.

Marañón even points us to films with the 2002 finals in Korea and Japan as a theme. Oldboy, a piece of film noir from South Korea, includes a character’s vision of the inspiring Korean performance, and Goal Club, a Thai movie from 2001, depicts boys who fantasize about playing in the 2002 competition but become tangled in illegal match-rigging instead.

While Marañón acknowledges the wealth of world cinema to which Spanish audiences are exposed—in contrast to the United States, where Hollywood films snuff out the small and independent features, as well as those from abroad—he writes that football remains an unpopular topic for filmmakers. Part of the problem is technical, given the challenges of creating credible live-action sequences. Another barrier in Europe is that intellectuals regard cinema as the territory of elite criticism. Hence, football films must contend with this possible bias.

Marañón includes a chapter on women and women’s football partly as a result of having seen depictions from the United States. “[W]e always see girls playing in the grounds in the American films we see here in Spain,” he writes. (Page image copyright © 2006 Ocho y medio)

These views, however, are changing. “[N]ow you can say that you like football if you’re an artist or a writer or a scientist,” says Marañón. “In Spain, that was not possible 20 years ago. [But] there’s a long way to improve. Of course, football movies change at the same time as football and society do. The multicultural and social view of Bend It Like Beckham was only a dream 20 years ago.”

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page