Third Cinema


It is not difficult to find fault with a concept and the political investment placed in a corresponding mode of film practice introduced over three decades ago. Nevertheless, some constructive criticisms can be, and have been, made in relation to the implications of Solanas and Getino's argument on aesthetic, ethical, and ideological grounds. The first is the problem of an intellectual and artistic vanguard: those who are familiar with the language of neocolonial cinema and thought, yet who, in seeking a alternative, strike alliances with leaders of the "masses." This is a tenuous arrangement, and it sets up a potentially troublesome tension between "means" and "ends": does film technology remain in the hands of a select, educated few, and does political education, in the form of audiovisual exposition and analysis, flow in only one direction, from the lettered to the unschooled? This contradiction is addressed by Gabriel and García Espinosa in their essay "For an Imperfect Cinema," (Martin, New Latin American Cinema , pp. 71–82.) Does this not pave the way for

Glauber Rocha's Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God, White Devil, 1964).
paternalism, at worst, or heavy handedness at best, raising the objections of peers, such as Raúl Ruiz (b. 1941), as to the lack of attention to the rich semiotic potential of film form owing to an excess of propagandizing? Sanjinés proposed a means of attenuating the gap between filmmaker and revolutionary subject by positioning the screenwriter in the role of "interpreter and translator," so as to serve merely as an "expressive vehicle" for the people, a change that finds reflection in film form, as well as content (Martin, New Latin American Cinema , p. 63).

A related issue is the role of the state, in that if it is to develop autonomy from commercial imperatives, Third World cinema cannot survive without state protection and financing; yet where should filmmakers be positioned in relation to the state apparatus, especially if that apparatus is vulnerable to occupation by unfriendly representatives? This question was raised when, with the success of Juan Perón's return to power by popular vote in 1973, Getino began to work inside the state censorship board and disapproved of ongoing clandestine film activity, a stance that was answered by accusations of bureaucratic conformity with the government line. In relation to who is able to make claims on the state, and how those claims might advance Third Cinema, it is useful to note the masculinist and occidental bias in the original theories, given that approaches may vary not only according to historical circumstances (which Solanas and Getino recommend), but according to gender and ethnicity. Feminist cinema and indigenous media have had far-reaching impact on the mode of production, chosen film language, and targeted audience, which might not always be a "mass" audience, yet is viewed as no less conducive to generating change at the national level. Finally, there is the complex goal of cultural self-determination, and the extent to which a truly autochthonous media practice can develop in underindustrialized or in neo- and postcolonial circumstances. Is it possible to conceive of West African cinema without European funding and technical assistance? Was it wrong for European directors such as Joris Ivens (1898–1989) (Chile and China), Chris Marker (b. 1921) (Chile, Cuba, Guinea-Bissau), and Gillo Pontecorvo (b. 1919) (Algeria, the Caribbean) to play an advisory and collaborative role in the development of Third Cinema? How do these "Western assisted" efforts weigh against the film initiatives of Ruy Guerra (b. 1931) (Mozambique) in Latin America, and of Santiago Alvarez (1919–1998) (Cuba) in Chile and Vietnam, which on the surface suggest a more level playing field for Third World players?

Finally, historical trends, such as the increasing frequency with which film directors work in exile or on the move, have placed question marks around the relationship of Third Cinema to a "national project," prompting Iranian-born theorist Hamid Naficy to call for acknowledgment of its intersection with an "interstitial cinema" created by exilic directors (such as Palestinians Michel Khleifi [b. 1950] and Mona Hatoum) and wandering or diasporic directors (such as Brazilian-Algerian Karim Aïnouz [b. 1966] and Flora Gomes [b. 1949] from Guinea-Bissau), as well as filmmakers of minority ethnic backgrounds working within nation-states dominated by other groups (such as Kurds in Turkey, Turkish filmmakers in Germany). On the other hand, powerful film industries have become interested in "Third World" actors, settings, and subject matter, leading to films that resemble "Third Worldist" films in strategy and theme, but are directed by industry-savvy Euro Americans, such as Joshua Marston, whose Maria Full of Grace (2004) was shot in Colombia, co-produced by HBO Films and Santa Fe Productions, with Journeyman Pictures, Tuca Producciones Cinematogra Alter-Cinéńficas Ltda. (Colombia), and́ (based in Mexico City). These developments suggest that Third Cinema is still very much alive as an object of renewed analysis and debate.

SEE ALSO Africa South of the Sahara ; Arab Cinema ; Argentina ; Brazil ; Chile ; Colonialism and Postcolonialism ; Cuba ; Diasporic Cinema ; Egypt ; Ideology ; Marxism ; Mexico ; National Cinema

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Pines, Jim, and Paul Willemen, eds. Questions of Third Cinema . London: British Film Institute, 1989.

Robin, Diana, and Ira Jaffe, eds. Redirecting the Gaze: Gender, Theory, and Cinema in the Third World . Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

Sanjinés, Jorge, and the Ukamau Group. Theory and Practice of a Cinema With the People . Translated by Richard Schaaf. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1989. Originally published by Siglo XXI Editores, Mexico City, 1979.

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Stam, Robert. "Hour of the Furnaces and the Two Avant Gardes." Millennium Film Journal 7/8/9 (Fall/Winter 1980–1981): 151–164.

Stam, Robert, and Toby Miller, eds. Film and Theory: An Anthology . Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Catherine L. Benamou

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