Fernando Solanas, Argentine Filmmaker and Politician, Dies at 84

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

BUENOS AIRES — When Argentina’s Senate debated a law legalizing abortion in 2018, Fernando Solanas, then a senator, argued fervently in favor of it in part by declaring that sexual pleasure was a “fundamental human right.”

The bill was rejected but Mr. Solanas’ speech and its unusual argument quickly went viral in a nation bitterly divided by the issue.

Mr. Solanas was a consistent voice on the left, often speaking out in favor of human and environmental rights, whether in politics or in his other life as an influential filmmaker whose movies and documentaries marked a new era in Latin American cinema.

Mr. Solanas died on Nov. 6 of complications of Covid-19 in Paris, Argentina’s foreign ministry said in a statement. He was 84.

Fernando Ezequiel Solanas was born on Feb. 16, 1936, in Olivos, Buenos Aires province. His father, Héctor Solanas, was a surgeon, and his mother, María Julia Zaldarriaga, was a painter and poet. Mr. Solanas briefly studied law before attending the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts.

He graduated in 1962 and went into advertising.

That work allowed him to raise enough money to make “La Hora de los Hornos” (“The Hour of the Furnaces”), a three-part, four-hour and 20-minute documentary that he directed with Octavio Getino about neocolonialism and political violence. It was released in 1968.

Described as “a unique film exploration of a nation’s soul” by Vincent Canby in The New York Times in 1971, the movie made a splash abroad but was officially banned in Argentina, then under military rule, although it received clandestine screenings.

Mr. Solanas and Mr. Getino founded the influential Grupo Cine Liberación (The Liberation Film Group) and went on to coin the term “Third Cinema” to describe the burgeoning Latin American film movement that had a revolutionary undercurrent and sought to break free from production standards set in Hollywood and Europe.

After receiving death threats, Mr. Solanas went into exile in Europe in 1976 as a brutal military dictatorship took hold.

Mr. Solanas returned to Argentina in 1983 and went on to film some of his best-known work, including “Sur” (“South”) for which he won the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988.

In 1991, Mr. Solanas was shot six times in the legs; the perpetrators were never caught, but he blamed then-President Carlos Menem, whom he bitterly opposed. Two years later, his formal political career began when he won a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, Argentina’s lower house of Congress.

Mr. Solanas, known by the nickname “Pino,” returned to filmmaking after his four-year term. He made another foray into politics a decade later with a run for the presidency in 2007, garnering less than 2 percent of the vote. He went back to the lower house of Congress in 2009 and was elected a senator in 2013.

He was appointed ambassador to UNESCO last year.

Mr. Solanas had a brief early marriage, and later had two children with Beatriz Trixie Amuchastegui. In 1994 he married the Brazilian actress Ângela Correa, whom he met while directing his 1992 film “El Viaje” (“The Journey”).

She survives him along with two children, Juan Diego Solanas and Victoria Eva Solanas; a stepson, Flexa D’Arco Iris Correa Lopes; a brother, Jorge; a sister, María Marta Solanas; and three grandchildren.

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