Third Cinema


The term "Third Cinema" was coined in an interview with the Argentine Cine Liberación group, published in the journal Cine Cubano (March 1969), and was then more fully developed in the manifesto "Towards a Third Cinema: Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World," written by Fernando Solanas (b. 1936) and Octavio Getino (b. 1935), members of that group. Since its publication in Tricontinenal (Havana, 1969), the essay has been translated and published in many languages. Solanas and Getino begin with the premise that in a situation of neocolonialism or underdevelopment, filmmakers need to begin shaping a practice that diverges both from "First Cinema," industrial cinema that is commercially distributed for profit, which can only lead to a sense of inadequacy and impotence for neocolonized audiences; and from "Second Cinema," art cinema developed by

Glauber Rocha on the set of Barravento (The Turning Wind, 1962).
talented individuals, some of whom attempt to contest the status quo, yet whose work is ultimately recuperated by the "System," if only to represent the possibility of dissent. Hollywood cinema epitomizes the former, globally hegemonic model, whereas Euro American and even Latin American auteurist cinemas, taking the form of the French nouvelle vague (new wave) or Brazilian cinema nôvo , exemplify the second option. In contrast to these, filmmakers are to side with "national culture" against the culture "of the rulers" and develop films that the "System cannot assimilate and which are foreign to its needs, or … that directly and explicitly set out to fight the System." (Martin, New Latin American Cinema , p.42).

A number of core precepts follow from this mission. First, there is the creation of interdependence between a revolutionary aesthetic and revolutionary activity, of which the cinema is but one integral component—some-thing easier said than done. Given the political struggle of Third filmmakers on two fronts, one where resistance is put up against neocolonial cultural domination and the other where the masses become engaged in historical and ideological analysis on the way to achieving national liberation and class equality, Third Cinema faces two tasks: the demystification of neocolonial art and media (with their "universalist" discourse), and the search for a film language that reflects and advances national concerns.

These tasks require a close, and preferably dialectical, relationship between film theory and practice. Indeed, Solanas and Getino formulated the theory of Third Cinema only after they had shot and released the three-part documentary, La Hora de los Hornos ( Hour of the Furnaces , 1968), which exhibits the form taken by cinema when it is placed in the service of the "masses" following a thorough analysis of the contemporary economic, social, and political conjuncture. It is an essay film, incorporating documentary footage from a wide range of sources (including those antagonistic to the filmmakers' project), in which facts are presented and analyzed by way of intertitles and voice-over narration that often disrupt the spectator's immersion in the diegetic spaces of the images. According to Solanas and Getino's formulation, documentary is most instrumental in developing Third Cinema—it lays bare the lived experience of the majority, counter posing "naked reality" to "movie-life," or the version of reality the ruling class

b. Glauber Pedro de Andrade Rocha, Vitória da Conquista, Brazil, 14 March 1939,
d. 22 August 1981

A prolific writer and film critic as well as film auteur, Glauber Rocha was a major exponent of the Brazilian cinema nôvo movement. His introduction to film practice through cinephilia, rather than formal training, triggered an affinity with the French New Wave, notably Jean-Luc Godard, as well as admiration for Italian neorealists, the post-neorealist Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein, and Orson Welles. After completing two short films in his native Bahia in 1959, Rocha joined a circle of young cineastes and critics in Rio de Janeiro—the founders of cinema nôvo —which led to his direction of Barravento ( The Turning Wind , 1962), a stark portrait of a Bahian fishing community.

Rocha hit his stride with Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol ( Black God, White Devil , 1964), which invokes legendary caboclo (mixed race) cult figures from the Northeast within an epic format that exposes the injustices suffered by the region's rural residents. Rocha never sacrificed respect for popular mythology in favor of ideological demystification, and the dialectical tension between the two, combined with a hybrid style that ranges from the minimalist and austere to the baroque and operatic, supported an allegorical dimension that is often lost on foreign viewers.

Following the 1964 military coup d'état, Rocha reflected on the failure of populism and leftist tactics in the face of fascism in Terra em Transe ( Land in Anguish , 1967). Prestigious awards and critical acclaim in Europe facilitated his exile during the harshest years of the dictatorship (1969 to 1976). Outside Brazil, Rocha directed four international coproductions with Cuba, Italy, and France, including a denunciation of European colonialism in Africa, Der Leone Have Sept Cabeças ( The Lion Has Seven Heads , 1969). Upon returning home, he directed documentaries on Brazilian artists Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and Jorge Amado, prior to making his film summa, A Idade da Terra ( The Age of the Earth , 1980), a highly reflexive and nonlinear work that investigates the possibility of resurrection in the wake of colonialism.

As a theorist, Rocha is best remembered for his manifesto "An Aesthetic of Hunger" (1965), which calls for an organic relationship between film style and the objective conditions surrounding film production, summarized in the statement "our originality is our hunger." Thus Rocha defends the symbolic depiction of violence while encouraging formal experimentation. Notwithstanding his abbreviated life and the controversy surrounding his reconciliation with the "liberalizing" military government in the late 1970s, Rocha's legacy looms large. His slogan "an idea in the head, a camera in the hand" has inspired subsequent generations of filmmakers, and his perspectives on the Cuban revolution have been revived by his son, Eryk, in a prizewinning feature documentary, Rocha Que Voa ( Stone in the Sky , 2002).


Deuseo Diabona Terrado Sol ( Black God, White Devil , 1964), Terra em Transe ( Land in Anguish , 1967), ODragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro ( Antonio das Mortes , 1969), Der Leone Have Sept Cabeças ( The Lion Has Seven Heads , 1969), Cabezas cortadas ( Cutting Heads , 1970)


Johnson, Randal. Cinema Nôvo X 5: Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Film . Austin:Universityof Texas Press, 1984.

Rocha, Glauber. "An Aesthetic of Hunger." Translated by Randal Johnson and Burnes Hollyman. In Brazilian Cinema , edited by Randal Johnson and Robert Stam, 68–71. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Originally published as "A Estética da Fome" in Revista da Civilização Brasileira , July, 1965.

——. "History of Cinema Nôvo." Framework 12 (1979): 19–27.

——. "Humberto Mauro and the Historical Position of Brazilian Cinema." Framework 11 (1979): 5–8.

Stam, Robert. Tropical Multiculturalism: A Comparative History of Race in Brazilian Cinema and Culture . Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.

Xavier, Ismail. Allegories of Underdevelopment: Aesthetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema . Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Catherine L. Benamou

would like the majority to consume (Martin, 1997, pp. 42, 44)—and the form of the documentary should jolt the spectator out of passivity into action. The political effectivity of Third Cinema is assisted, finally, by its circulation and screening in accessible formats (16mm) in nonconventional circuits, in the same places where the masses gather to organize themselves politically. This is a spontaneous, "guerrilla" form of cinema that is collectively produced, adapts to rapidly unfolding events, and can be useful to grass roots struggles being developed internationally; it advances the project of tricontinental revolution.

Of course, Third Cinema was not proposed solely in response to Argentina's stalled development and labor organization under military rule (1966–1971), but was inspired by the historical opportunities afforded by the defeat of French colonial power in Vietnam (1954) and Algeria (1962), the Cuban revolution (1959), and black African independence movements (mid-1950s to the mid-1970s). And it drew upon the precedent set by a previous generation of realist filmmakers who studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, such as Fernando Birri (b. 1925), whose Tire Dié ( Throw Me a Dime , Argentina, 1960), and Nelson Pereira dos Santos (b. 1928), whose Rio 40 Graus ( Rio 100 Degrees F. , Brazil, 1955) and Rio Zona Norte ( Rio, Northern Zone , 1957) struck a chord with Third Cinema projects fueled by political urgency. In the sixties and seventies, Argentine Third Cinema, to which filmmakers of divergent leftist ideologies contributed (including Jorge Cedrón [1946–1980], Operación Masacre , [ Operation Massacre , 1973], and the Grupo Cine de la Base), resonated with experiments elsewhere in Latin America, where filmmakers were advancing their own theories of nationally oriented, popularly based, and ideologically progressive cinema—such as Glauber Rocha (1938–1981) in Brazil, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1928–1996) and Julio García Espinosa (b. 1926) in Cuba, Jorge Sanjinés (b. 1937) in Bolivia, and the Grupo Tercer Cine in Chile. It also paralleled efforts in newly decolonized nations, such as Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Senegal, to develop a socially meaningful and culturally reinvigorating film practice.

While the Argentine experiment was brutally cut short by the military coup d'état in 1976, which sent most of its participants into either torture chambers or exile, manifestations of Third Cinema have subsequently sprouted in countries where "optimum" historical conditions for radical change have not been present (at least not on the same scale). Examples include films by Paul Leduc (b. 1942) and Mari Carmen de Lara (b. 1957) in Mexico, Marta Rodríguez in Colombia, Lino Brocka (1939–1991) and Kidlat Tahimik (b. 1942) in the Philippines, Isaac Julien (b. 1960) in Great Britain, Euzhan Palcy (b. 1958) in Martinique, Masato Harada (b. 1949) in Japan, Mrinal Sen (b. 1923), Girish Karnad (b. 1938), and Govind Nihalani (b. 1940) in India, Youssef Chahine (b. 1926) and Taufik Salih (b. 1927) in Egypt, and Med Hondo (b. 1936) in Mauritania. Solanas and Getino also did not rule out the possibility for Third Cinema to develop in the shadow of First Cinema, and their citation of US-based Newsreel's solidarity with Third World Liberation movements can be followed by mention of the early work of Wayne Wang (b. 1949), Lourdes Portillo, Christine Choy, Elia Suleiman (b. 1960), Haile Gerima (b. 1946), Pedro Rivera and Susan Zeig, among others.

The theory of Third Cinema has been revisited and reworked, notably by Teshome Gabriel, who in his 1985 essay "Towards a Critical Theory of Third World Cinema" (Stam and Miller, Film and Theory , pp.298–316) developed an historical sequence of its development within a process of decolonization as well as a consideration of film aesthetics in relation to oral and print forms of communication. Also, Michael Martin in his Cinemas of the Black Diaspora has considered its points of intersection with black diasporic cinema, while cautioning against reductionism; Jim Pines and Paul Willemen in their Questions of Third Cinema have seen in Third Cinema a means of reinvigorating a sterile oppositional practice and aesthetic debate in the First World; and Ella Shohat and Robert Stam in their Unthinking Eurocentrism have expanded upon the elements of reflexivity and allegory in Third Cinema to describe a more comprehensive and flexible "Third Worldist" approach to filmmaking.

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