Filmmaker Juan Solanas says he is an atheist. But he says that if God exists, he is wearing a green handkerchief, the emblematic icon of the legal abortion movement in Argentina, where the director returned to film his latest documentary.
That film, Que Sea Ley, will premiere on Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival.
Argentina's movement to legalise abortion, which became known as the "green wave," is what dragged his film to the beaches of the Cannes. It has been included in the Special Screenings section.
"The heroines of the film will accompany me to Cannes," the director says poetically.
Solanas' latest documentary was filmed in 2018 in a spontaneous and passionate way. He captured testimonies from the hundreds of thousands of women who took to the streets to campaign for the free, legal and safe interruption of pregnancy in Argentina.
"I grew up in a family of athiests, although my paternal grandmother believed. I respect the beliefs of the people, but it is medieval and violent to impose themselves on people who do not think the same," the filmmaker said.
A law to legalise abortion in Argentina was approved in 2018 by the lower house Chamber of Deputies, but was finally rejected by the Senate in a closely watched battle that ended 38 votes to 31.
In Argentina, abortion is currently only allowed in case of rape, if the life of the mother is at risk or if the foetus is unviable.
"The night [of the vote in the Senate] I died of cold," said Solanas, recalling the downpour that accompanied the news. "I almost broke the camera, but I was fascinated with seeing the talent, life and creativity of the green movement."
"I felt anger, indignation," said the director, the son of the fellow award-winning filmmaker Fernando 'Pino' Solanas, who was exiled in France during the dictatorship and delivered a passionate speech on the night of the vote in his position as an opposition senator.
There is an echo for Juan Solanas in France. His father, now 83, was chosen as best director in Cannes for his film Sur (1988).
Juan Solanas is 52 years old, and he has spent 37 of those residing in France. He spent another five years in Montevideo. In Argentina, he is little known.
"I always wanted to go back, but the uprooting is very hard," he reveals.
Initially drawn toward original fictional works in cinema, Solanas Jnr says the DNA of politics runs in his veins.
"My mother and father were militants all their lives. They [the dictatorship] were going to kill him," he recalls. "I lived in hiding with my mother."
Though his profile is lower at home, Solanas is married to an Argentine. His children, a boy of 12 and a girl of 10, were born in Paris.
But he says he feels as Argentine as the green tide that has brought him in Cannes and in the path of documentary cinema.
Solanas says he was "thrilled to see a wonderful, super-powerful women's movement" arise in his homeland.
"I fell in love. It was a shock. Women are incredible," he says.
by by Daniel Merolla, AFP