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History

The Chronology below covering 1945 - 1962 shows the period riven with conflict as anti-colonial forces sought independence and the dismemberment of empires. The increasing rivalry and conflict between the western alliance led by the USA [First World] and the eastern bloc led by the USSR [Second World] was an important factor. Anti-colonial forces often received direct military aid from the Soviet Union, as happened in both North Korea and in Vietnam. In other cases, economic aid provided an alternative to Western capital. India relied on the Soviet Union for a period, and Soviet support was an important factor in the Cuban resistance to US aggression.

The 1950s and 1960s saw large part of the world freed from colonial occupation; the pink bits showing the British Empire largely disappeared from maps. However, the domination did not necessarily disappear. The economic and political ties frequently meant less visible but equally effective control. For example, the French maintained their economic power in West Africa and parts of Arabia. One of the problems besetting militant Cineastes in the region was the control of both production and distribution by French capital.

Newly independent leaders were often suborned in the manner satirised in Sembène's 'Xala' [1974]. When more militant leaders led fundamental changes the responses included: assassination as in the death of Patrice Lumumba with CIA involvement in the Congo: economic warfare and subversion as with the US against the Cuba: and direct military intervention as carried out by the British and French in Egypt. This led to armed and cultural resistance against both the neo-colonial powers and their satraps in the countries themselves.

This militant conflict was reflected in the wider culture, including cinema. Already in the 1950s there were films with a conscious political content and a commitment to liberation. In the 1960s there was an explosion of this type of cinema, as can be seen in the three continental examples. Importantly, these young filmmakers were involved in both theory and practice. So there was a stream of political writings and manifestos. The best known are highlighted in these pages. However, there were numerous examples, just as there were numerous films. Both in some way tapped into and supported the wave of liberation fervour and struggle.

The 1960s were the decade of Independence, especially in Africa. There were, though, areas of reaction. Notable were those countries with a large indigenous settler population. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia saw long struggles by the indigenous populations. In Latin America, formal independence had been achieved in the C19th. The problem in the 1960s was US dominance [hegemony]. The Cuban revolution sparked a number of militant and cultural examples. The struggle against neo-colonial regimes subservient to the USA led to frequent military coups and juntas. The most notorious was the CIA backed coup in Chile in 1973. Such reaction produced not just cinemas of resistance but underground cinemas, which operated outside of the established filmmaking and film audience networks.

By the 1980s, the idea of a Third Cinema was firmly established, both in the countries dominated by neo-colonialism and in intellectual and academic circles which focused on film and cinema. In 1986, a conference was held in Edinburgh that included filmmakers, activists, critics and theorists. The conference highlighted areas of agreement and disagreement, but it also broadly mapped out a terrain for Third Cinema. Teshombe Gabriel's model for critical inquiry into Third Cinema was the most developed of these.

The 1990s however saw a contraction in the space for resistance. The demise of the Soviet Union and the idea of a Second World, a socialist camp, clearly weakened anti-colonial forces. Many of the major liberation conflicts have died down and a number of movements have made settlements with the imperialists. In South Africa, black majority rule has been achieved, but the control by multinationals and white settlers of the key economic resources has not changed. Hence the inability to deal with the aids crisis.

The downturn in militant struggle has been reflected in cinema. There appear to be fewer films with a clear militant stamp released into existing cinema circuits. However, the decline in alternative exhibition in a country like Britain makes it difficult to have a clear sense of world cinema. Another Conference organised in London by the British Film Institute on 'Africa and the History of Cinematic Ideas', saw more than one delegate pronounce the idea of Third Cinema dead.

Yet there are still films that seem to fulfil the criteria for a cinema that 'directly opposes the system' of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Moreover, new technologies mean that films can be produced and circulated outside the cinematic institutions. Young filmmakers are working with video and digital video and clearly many of these confront the continuing domination by a handful of advanced capitalist countries of the majority of the world's population.

"...many men and women who up till then would never have thought of producing a literary [cinematic] work, now that they find themselves in exceptional circumstances - feel the need to speak to their nation, to compose the sentence which expresses the heart of the people and to become the mouthpiece of a new reality in action."

[Frantz Fanon]

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Poster for 'Battle of the Algiers'


Chronologies

Here are links to a selection of chronologies related to Third World Third Cinema.

Libertion Struggles

Africa and its Cinema

Latin America and its Cinema

India and its Cinema


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