French filmmaker Philippe Le Guay sheds light on a forgotten part of French history.The Help has been one of the big movie hits of 2011 for its light-hearted look at the women on the outskirts of society raising white children. It shares a lot in common with Philippe Le Guay's The Women On The 6th Floor, also set in the sixties. Le Guay's French film digs into a forgotten aspect of French modern history and looks at the legions of Spanish women who raised French children during the period.
It's a story the 55-year-old French writer/director had almost forgotten until a childhood memory sparked an epiphany.
``It all came from a childhood memory where, from the age two to five, I had a Spanish maid in the house,'' he says.
``She left when I was around five and became kind of a legend in the family because she was full of joy and very warm.
``She taught me songs and prayers in Spanish and she left a very vivid impression in the household.
``The memory only very recently came back to me and through that I wanted to tell the experience of a whole generation of women that came from Spain.''With generations of French children brought up by these women, Le Guay says he wanted to the tone and story to give them a voice.
``I wanted to tell a story of these women who had no stories,'' he says.
``You look at pictures from the sixties and you very rarely see Spanish women of any kind in them, which is just absurd.
``They were there constantly but were treated like part of the domestic life, like furniture.
``It was this invisible presence I wanted to give a face to.''
Best known in France for films such as The Cost of Living and Nightshift, Le Guay is currently visiting Australia for the first time to promote The Women On The 6th Floor. The ``art galleries'' and ``Australian paintings'' have been Le Guay's favourite attractions so far. Like Australia, Le Guay says immigration is a ``big issue'' in France and it was interesting to look back at the situation in the sixties.
``Immigration wasn't as dramatic as it is today,'' he says.
``The laws have become tougher and tougher, and even more repressive.
``A lot of foreigners every year are put back to their homes. In the sixties the Spanish colonies were flourishing and a lot more optimistic.''
The Women On The 6th Floor is out Thursday.