By Mónica Delgado
A couple of days ago, Juan Solanas’ Let it be law was presented in a special projection in Cannes, a film which seeks to be a vehicle to achieve a change of mind for the decriminalization of abortion in Argentina. Through testimonies of victims and showing various positions in interviews to different political actors, Solanas makes a documentary about the mood that permeated the country before the vote against the project in the Argentinian senate.
The film opens with numbers of death in the entire screen, indicating that only 8% of women can abort clandestinely in healthy conditions. Its position is political and ethical: to defend abortion as a right to a healthy life for women. Thus, the documentary gathers voices of women in different parts of the country, where state abandonment and abuse in hospital are commonplace.
The film quickly loses power when opting for a journalistic gaze, and for including the religious subject as part of the agenda. The argument of the laic state, of the good Christian or catholic isn’t strong enough. One perceives that the film is made for a sector resistant to the law, and the expressive option to achieve this is ambivalent. It starts with a harangue and then tries to move the believers that the respect for the right of abortion is to be a good neighbor, faithful to Jesus and his precepts. This is betting for two discourses that somehow repel each other.
There are parts which include the March for life, counterpoised to the feminist struggles, which could’ve been exposed in their great inspiring dimension for Latin America, which doesn’t help to define the objective: empathy of more women or convincing some conservative politicians. I doubt the second objective can be achieved in the way the documentary is composed.
What is clear though is that the film, beyond its qualities or defects, has been chosen in this edition of Cannes for its mobilizing effect, which seeks an overwhelming call for attention.
There’s a fiction feature in Cannes which also allows a lecture on the right to decide, even if it’s not abortion itself, but the issue of being a mother without wanting to be one. In Un Certain Regard, Maryam Touzani’s feature film Adam was presented, a film which deals with the topic of forced maternity in a Moroccan traditional context. A pregnant, indigent woman looks for a job and a baker widow takes pity on her and allows her to sleep some days in her home. They both start a friendship which starts in a hostile climate slowly being released as, first, the rupture of resistance between women, and then, as a sign of sisterhood in a country filled with prejudice. It’s, in the end, the story of two single mothers, who share fears in a world without the help of men.
The Moroccan film is a conventional melodrama, even with some overly forced scenes, and whose existence is only justified in its ending scene, which in some way is posed as an example or possibility for some women: the denial of motherhood, the right to choose and a response against being forced to be a mother.
Director, script: Juan Solanas
Sound: Nicolás Sulcic
Cast: Marta Alanis
Argentina, France, Paraguay, 2019, 89 mins