In Argentina, the late 1960s and early 1970s were characterized by political tensions that negatively affected the national community. Despite the passing of two laws between 1966 and 1968 to protect national cinema through loans and exhibition quotas, Argentine filmmaking lacked quality films and was limited by censorship. In 1970, a biopic of the nineteenth-century Argentine liberator, José de San Martín, El santo de la espada, directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, became a major box-office success. Film scholars, however, have seen it as propaganda, given that it received both official approval and funding during the military government of General Onganía. Based on Andrew Higson’s definition of national cinemas, my reading proposes that El santo de la espada competed exceptionally well with Hollywood blockbusters in the Argentine domestic market. Relying on reports published in the general press and trade journals and on insights from stardom studies and theory in relation to historical films, I trace the production and reception of this popular film as well as the reasons why El santo de la espada has not been properly included in Argentine film history.


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pp. 57-74
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