More than eighty years after its premiere, a long-lost film from pioneering Argentine filmmaker Quirino Cristiani was recently discovered and will be screened today for the first time in decades. And, as one might expect of a long-lost Argentine film, Entre pitos y flautas (Between Whistles and Flutes in English) is about soccer.
Who is Quirino Cristiani?
Cristiani was an Italian-born artist whose family emigrated to Argentina in 1900. From a young age he excelled at drawing and started creating his own cartoons when he was still in his teens. Cristiani is credited as having made the world’s first two animated features, El apóstol (1917) and Sin dejar rastros (1918), as well as the first animated feature with sound, Peludópolis (1931).
Sadly, nearly all Cristiani’s work was destroyed by two warehouse fires in 1957 and 1961, and most of what remains comes from decades-old documentaries about the filmmaker. Despite most of his art being lost forever, Cristiani’s legacy is cemented as one of animation’s greatest pioneers. When Spanish and Latin American organizers were planning a trans-Atlantic animation award ceremony, they named it the Quirino Awards in honor of the legendary filmmaker.
Late last year, animation historian Raúl Manrupe found a listing on MercadoLibre, a local online marketplace, titled “Película 16 Mm Dibujo B/n Mudo Dibujante Cristiani Única !!” Accompanying the post were two photos, one of a title card which read Un gran partido de futbol and one of a drawing identical to preserved promotional material from Cristiani’s penultimate film Entre pitos y flautas.
“I saw those frames that were in the listing and I knew immediately what movie it was. The frame in the listing was one of the few known to have been widely shared from a film about which very little is known,” Manrupe explained to Cartoon Brew.
He quickly alerted the Buenos Aires-based film archive Cineteca Vida. After verifying the film’s authenticity, the organization then purchased the reel. According to the seller, it was found in a group of old film cans they had recently purchased.
About The Film
Little is known about the production or distribution of Entre pitos y flautas. The Fundación Cineteca Vida was able to confirm that the film won an award granted by the municipality of Buenos Aires in 1941. Coincidentally, that was the year that Walt Disney visited Buenos Aires and met Cristiani. The legend goes that Disney offered Cristiani a job at his U.S. studio, but the Argentine declined.
At the time, many short films were copied and rented out to theaters or for in-home use. It’s likely that the found version of Entre pitos y flautas is one of those copies, which could also explain why it has a different title card than the original.
Miraculously, the film was found in great condition. After acquiring the reel, Alejandra Portela at Cineteca Vida was able to scrape together enough money to fund the restoration of the 16mm film and produce a digitized 4K version.
Visual gags and surreal humor
“The film has a lot of great gags and visual humor,” said Manrupe. “The referees are in cartoonish old-fashioned pants and caps and there are fans in the stands with machine guns.”
He also notes a degree of fantasy that is present in much of Cristiani’s work. “There is a level of surrealism to it as well. One player kicks the ball at the referee and it makes a hole in his chest. Another passes the ball far into the sky and God kicks it back from the heavens.”
Entre pitos y flautas, or in this case Un gran partido de futbol, screens on August 4, at 8:00 p.m. local time at the Centro Cultural 25 de Mayo in Buenos Aires, presented by the Fundación Cineteca Vida. The film will be accompanied by a roundtable featuring Cristiani’s grandson Héctor Cristiani, restorationist Laura Gómez, and esteemed animation filmmaker Juan Pablo Zaramella (Luminaris, The Tiniest Man in the World).