For over 30 years, Fernando E. Solanas has been using the medium of film to observe the political and social realities of life in his native Argentina. His sensational debut The Hour of the Furnaces (La Hora de Los Hornos) (1967) became a beacon of political documentary filmmaking throughout Latin America. His latest film focuses on the Argentinean crisis of recent years and the devastating consequences of globalization, neo-liberal economics, and corruption on this once-rich country. It is at one level agitprop filmmaking and at another level an inventive historical and ideological film essay. With Furnaces it shares a veritable arsenal of formal elements yielding its rich and grand, almost operatic, style. The material is divided into chapters separated by black spaces and inter-titles and graphics, in an intentional homage to silent cinema. Carefully constructed sound effects, the recurrent leitmotifs of a rich music soundtrack by Geraldo Gandini, the seductive traveling shots opening into glorious master shots, and the pointed use of wide-angle shots all serve to give an extraordinary aesthetic unity to the wildly heterogeneous sources of information. This is a quintessentially auteur film made all the more forceful by the first-person narration of Solanas himself, who pulls off the miracle of reaching both our hearts and our intellects. This year, both the Berlin and the Mar del Plata Film Festivals honored Solanas with Life Achievement Awards and Galas -- and to that all an observer can say is "Bravo, my friends, bravo."
Fernando Solanas was born in Buenos Aires in 1936. In 1976, after one of his actors was murdered, he received death threats and was exiled to France where he directed 1981's Le Regard des Autres (In the People's Eyes). In 1984, he returned to Argentina to film Tangos, l'exil de Gardel (The Exile of Gardel), an optimistic piece, imbued with the joy of his homecoming. Sur (The South) and El Viaje (The Journey), defined his changing cinematographic orientation -- less utopian, more bitter. Solanas received six bullets in the leg during a murder attempt and yet went on to become a national deputy, taking a five-year break from filmmaking. Politics "cannot be left in the hands of a class of professional politicians," Solanas has said, "an artist's duty is to take part in the nation's affairs." 1998's La Nube (The Clouds) was a film of revolt and a tribute to independent theater in Argentina.