Fascism and Fútbol Feature in Chilean Series ‘The Saddest Goal’

Jamie Lang

PAMPLONA, Spain – Chilean production company Manufactura de Películas pitched its unconventional Pinochet-era drama “The Saddest Goal” today at Spain’s Conecta Fiction TV co-production and networking TV event, held in Pamplona.

Set during qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, a period of great political instability in Chile, “The Saddest Goal” kicks off as the Chilean national team is set to leave for their match against the Soviet Union in the USSR. On the same day, Pinochet’s coup d’etat kicks off in earnest, the team’s German trainer disappears, and the players resist leaving  their families behind amongst the turmoil, although few understand how bad things will get in the coming days.

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Soccer and fascism have an unfortunate relationship in Chile, as the country’s national stadium in Santiago was used as Pinochet’s torture and detention center. A fiercely nationalistic and proud man, Pinochet viewed the match against the Soviets as not just a game, but a matter of state, committing to whatever illegal and illicit means necessary to ensure Chile’s passage out of the qualifying stage.

In the end, Khrushchev’s Soviet team refused to play the return leg of their matchup against Chile after learning the stadium in which the game was to be held was being used as a labor and torture camp. This meant Chile automatically qualified for the Cup, so long as they still played the game and scored at least one goal against a non-existent opposition in front of an empty stadium-turned-concentration camp. The team went out and scored “the saddest goal” in what is considered one of the darkest moments in world soccer.

Headlining the series are two of Chile’s most revered and recognizable stage and film actors, Luis Gnecco, who dazzled in Pablo Larraín’s “Neruda,” featured in Sebastián Lelio’s Oscar-winner “A Fantastic Woman” and most recently guest starred in HBO’s breakout new hit “Los Espookys”; and Alfredo Castro who starred in Larraín’s “Tony Manero” and Golden Globe-nominated “The Club,” and was one good reason why Lorenzo Vigas’ “From Afar” came from nowhere to win a Venice Golden Lion

The series is co-penned by rising star Luis Barrales who only started writing in 2015 but has already worked on the highly admired limited series “Mary & Mike,” the TV adaptation of Isabel Allende’s “Inés del alma mía” – to be presented at the first Conecta fiction in 2017 – and “El Presidente,” produced by the Larraín brothers’ Fabula for Amazon Prime.

The series will be co-written and directed by another emerging Chilean talent in Sergio Castro San Martín, whose recently wrote and directed on “La Jauría,” the first international series from the Larraín brothers’ Fabula which stars “A Fantastic Woman” Oscar nominee Daniela Vega. The filmmaker is also attached to “Negro, Material Author,” another series being moved in Pamplona.

Macarena López’s Santiago-based Manufactura De Películas’ most recent film “Rara,” won the Berlin Generation Kplus best feature award, San Sebastian’s Latinos Horizontes and was selected as San Sebastian’s best Latin American film. López and Castro brought the series to Conecta Fiction looking for potential co-production partners and distributors, both domestically and abroad.

The series has already secured support from the Chilean Audiovisual Development Fund, Ibermedia Project development funds and the Corfo development support for TV series. A feature film version of the project has also participated in the European Co-Production Market, at the Berlinale Co-Production Forum and the San Sebastian Festival. ESPN produced a “30 for 30” documentary about the ’73 World Cup qualifiers titled “The Opposition” in 2014.

“What we want to do is approach this story from the inside out,” explained Lopez in her pitch.

“We don’t see directly the cultural and social upheaval as it’s going on,” added Castro, “We get a feel for it from the waiting room at an airport, the dressing rooms of the team.”

On a day full of pitches about Pinochet’s Chile, being an of-the-era series that never shows but rather alludes to the political, cultural and social unrest of the time set “The Saddest Goal” apart.

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