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Theories

This chapter focuses on some of the theory underlying the production of Third Cinema. Through studying this theoretical understanding it can be noted that film makers from hugely disparate parts of the world are related through their motivations and actions in producing Third Cinema.

The section headings given to the left include some of the people and concepts that have influenced the development of the Third Cinema movement.

In the last section a list of publications can be found providing suggestions for deeper investigation of this compelling subject.






Theories on Third Cinema

Third Cinema is not only notable for the films it has produced, but for a collection of articles, manifestos and critical engagements which provides the ideas that under pin its practice. A few of the most influential and key works are discussed in these pages. They are concerned not only with economic, political and military domination, but also with the cultural.

"Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native's braid of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it."

[Frantz Fanon, Third Cinema film maker and theorist]

In the 1950s, westerners still often thought that Africa had no history. The great art and cultural works of such civilisations were frequently destroyed or carted off to fill empty spaces in Western museums. A process still going on now in Iraq. Thus, Third World leaders fought not just politically or militarily but also culturally.

Frantz Fanon, writing 'On National Consciousness', includes a complete poem which he regards as an example of fighting literature, 'African Dawn'. The poem dramatises the experiences of West Africans under colonialism during World War II. The same story was later treated in Ousmane Sembène's film, 'Camp D'Thiaroye'.

One of the earliest and most influential national liberation struggles was that fought in Algeria between 1954 and 1962 to rid the country of French Colonialism. In 1965 a cinematic treatment, 'The Battle of Algiers', was produced. Directed by an Italian Gillo Pontecorvo, it involved many of the Algerians who had fought against the French. The film was extremely influential and is often seen as an early example of Third Cinema.

All sorts of cultural products flowed out from the struggles against both colonialism and neo-colonialism. Poems, paintings, songs, novels, art works... their worth was determined not by western ideas of aesthetics, but by their function and purpose. Thus, the idea of a 'militant, fighting cinema' centred on films that developed a national, anti-colonial culture and that opposed the dominating culture imported by imperialism.

This cinema received its fullest definition in 'Towards Third Cinema'. These writings emphasised the distinctive form and style necessary to a cinema of opposition. This arguments counter posed to the lavish, expansive star laden vehicles of the First World, [First Cinema] with their gloss and high production values, a cinema that expressed their cultures of resistance. This is embodied in the idea of 'An Imperfect Cinema'.

As Third Cinema has developed, there has been a parallel intellectual development, which attempts to define and delineate this Third Cinema and the counterparts First and Second Cinema. There are several of these critical endeavours, and they frequently disagree both about the films and the theories that should under pin them. The Model section below, focuses on the critical theory of Tshombe Gabriel, which offers a scheme of analysis which both helps to define Third Cinema and to critically examine examples of these types of film.

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Third World

Simply put, the Third World consists of those peoples and nations dominated by the advanced capitalist countries, either directly by occupation [colonialism] or through political and economic domination [neo-colonialism]. In the 1950s, vast stretches of the world were directly occupied. The Bandung Conference of 1955 for non-aligned African and Asian countries was a forum for developing ideas of resistance and independence. Wars of liberation or national liberation struggles, notably in Algeria and Vietnam, were important catalysts in developing a consciousness of resistance.

The 'first world' was the world of domination. These advanced countries were able to exploit others through economic, military and political strength. They included the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan. The 'second world' was the camp of socialist countries, seen as outside the camp of capitalism but not dominated, as was the case of the Third World. This included the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Yugoslavia and Albania.

The term Third World emphasised long-term structural domination rather than "crude economic categories ("the poor"), developmental categories" (the "non-industrialized"), racial categories ("the non-White"), cultural categories ("the backward"), or geographical categories ("the East", "the South")." [Ella Shoat & Robert Stam]. All of the latter are imprecise and often confusing.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, large parts of this Third World were in continuous conflict with the First: sometimes this conflict was political and economic, often it was directly military. Algeria, Cuba and Vietnam were all significant anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles. In many other countries, there were organised struggles of rebellion. Such struggles were usually vilified in the west, as was the example of the Mau-Mau in Kenya. This movement was mainly about fighting British occupation, but in the British media, including films like 'Simba' [1955], the Mau-Mau were characterised as bloodthirsty savages.

Formal independence did not necessarily resolve the problems of domination. Cuba was able to resist US boycotts only through an increasing dependence on the Soviet Union. Vietnam, after defeating the US militarily, was finally forced to succumb to the economic might of that country. Kenya remains dependent on both British and USA power, just as the countries once colonised by France remain in dependency to Europe.

Like Cuba, many such struggles benefited from economic and even military aid from the Socialist Camp, especially the Soviet Union. Thus, the rivalry between the two superpowers [or camps] from the 1950s to the 1980s provided a space for the resistance of the Third World. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Superpower conflict, such militant opposition has waned. It would seem that there is no longer a second world or socialist camp. The use of the idea of 'globalization' has shifted attention away from a camp of opposition to neo-colonialism. However, war in the Middle East: starvation in Africa: the imposition of unequal trade on all continents demonstrates that the long-term domination remains.

The current situation is best described by the term Imperialism. This refers to a complex analysis, but its central strand describes the process of accumulating capital on a world scale. The concern is not just making profits, but developing and protecting the assets that generate profits. Currently the centre for this is the United States, whose dominance is primarily economic and political, but which enforces its interests by military means when necessary.

A further category that has emerged in recent years is 'The Fourth World', referring to those peoples who do not yet have independence embodied in a state. The Amazonian Indians would be an example.

The idea of developing culture as part of the Third World struggle is set out by Frantz Fanon in 'On National Culture'.

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Frantz Fanon, 1925 – 1961

Fanon was born in the French colony of Martinique in 1925. He studied medicine in France and then psychiatry. He went to work in Algeria during the rising against French rule. He later joined the Front de Liberation Nationale and became one of their most articulate spokesmen. He died of leukaemia in 1961. He left a legacy of writings and contributions to international debates in the anti-colonial struggle. There is a film portrait made in 1996, 'Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks', [a reference to his most famous book]. Fanon was clearly influenced by preceding theorists of liberation and also responded to arguments within the contemporary liberation movement. But he brought a distinctive strand in his study of the psychology of the oppressed and on the importance of culture in the struggle.

In 'Black Skin, White Masks' he writes:

"The problem we confront in this chapter is this: The Negro of the Antilles will be proportionately whiter - that is, he will come closer to being a real human being - in direct ratio to his mastery of the French language. I am not unaware that this is one of man's attitudes face to face with being. A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language. What we are getting at becomes plain: Mastery of language affords remarkable power...

"...Furthermore, I will broaden the field of this description and through the Negro of the Antilles include every colonised man.

"Every colonised people - in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality - finds itself face to face with the language of the civilising country. The colonised is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of his mother country's cultural standards. He becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle."

This sort of analysis became extremely influential, not just among the colonial oppressed, but also among oppressed minorities in the countries of the coloniser. Thus we can see Fanon's ideas feeding into the Black Consciousness movements in the USA and UK. His ideas can be seen at work in Ousmane Sembene's film 'Camp de Thiaroye'. Set in a Senegal still controlled by the French, the film details the experiences of a force of tirailleurs (colonial troops) waiting repatriation. The main African protagonist is Sergeant-Major Diatta, who is a master of European languages and culture and possesses a white wife. His extreme opposite amongst the troops is Pays (country} who has been rendered mute by the horrific experiences in a Buchevald concentration camp. When the French offices attempt to defraud the African soldiers Pays is leader in an act of rebellion - the kidnapping of a French General. It is Pays alone who tries to warn his comrades of the planned massacre by the French military. Diatta knows French culture, but Pays has experience of the racism endemic in European culture.

Fanon recognised that there was a commonality of black oppression. In 'The Wretched of the Earth' he argued:

"The Negroes who live in the United States and in Central or Latin America in fact experience the need to attach themselves to a cultural matrix. Their problem is not fundamentally different from that of the Africans. The whites of America did not mete out to them any different treatment from that of the whites that ruled over the Africans."

But that there were also different situations:

"The test cases of civil liberty whereby both whites and blacks in America try to drive back racial discrimination have very little in common in their principles and objectives with the heroic fight of the Angolan people against the detestable Portuguese colonialism."

Fanon argued for a national struggle in the fight against colonialism. He also argued that this struggle was violent, necessarily violent in order to throw off the chains of colonialism. However, Fanon argued that this struggle is also cultural.

"For culture is first the expression of a nation, the expression of its preferences, of its taboos and of its patterns. It is at every stage of the whole of society that other taboos values and patterns are formed. A national culture is the sum total of all these appraisals; … In the colonial situation, culture, which is doubly deprived of the support of the national and of the state, falls away and dies. The condition for its existence is therefore national liberation and the renaissance of the state.

"The nation is the condition of culture, its fruitfulness, its continuous renewal, and its deepening. It is also a necessity. It is the fight for national existence, which sets culture moving and opens to it the doors of creation. Later on it is the nation which will ensure the conditions and framework necessary to culture."

Also see On National Consciousness below.

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On National Consciousness

An important strand in Third World cinema is its contribution to developing an anti-colonial consciousness, a sense of the peoples' own national consciousness. One of the most powerful proponents of the development of such national consciousness was Frantz Fanon. He was born in the French colony of Martinique in 1925. He studied medicine and then psychiatry in France and later went to work in Algeria. In 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale led an uprising against French colonial rule. Fanon joined the FLN and became one of their most articulate spokesmen. He died of leukaemia in 1961. He left a legacy of writings and contributions to international debates in the anti-colonial struggle.

Fanon brought a distinctive strand in his study of the psychology of the oppressed and on the importance of culture in the struggle. In 'Black Skin, White Masks' he writes:

"What we are getting at becomes plain: Mastery of language affords remarkable power. ... Every colonised people - in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality - finds itself face to face with the language of the civilising country. The colonised is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of his mother country's cultural standards. He becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle."

This type of analysis became extremely influential, not just among the colonial oppressed, but also among oppressed minorities in the countries of the coloniser. Fanon's ideas also fed into the Black Consciousness movements in the USA and UK.

He recognised that there was a commonality of black oppression:

"The Negroes who live in the United States and in Central or Latin America in fact experience the need to attach themselves to a cultural matrix. Their problem is not fundamentally different from that of the Africans. The whites of America did not mete out to them any different treatment from that of the whites that ruled over the Africans."

However, he also recognised their different situations:

"But little by little the American Negroes realised that the essential problems confronting them were not the same as those that confronted the African Negroes. The Negroes of Chicago only resemble the Nigerians or the Tanganyikans in so far as they were all defined in relation to whites. But once the first comparisons had been made and subjective feelings were assuaged, the American Negroes realised that the objective problems were fundamentally heterogeneous. The test cases of civil liberty whereby both whites and blacks in America try to drive back racial discrimination have very little in common in their principles and objectives with the heroic fight of the Angolan people against the detestable Portuguese colonialism."

Fanon did not hark back to some past cultural glory but argued for a struggle firmly based in the existing conditions.

"Negro-ism therefore finds its first limitation in the phenomena which takes account of the formation of the historical character of men. Negro and African-Negro culture broke up into different entities because the men who wished to incarnate these cultures realised that every culture is first and foremost national, ..."

Fanon argued for a national struggle in the fight against colonialism. He also argued that this struggle was violent, necessarily violent in order to throw off the chains of colonialism. However, Fanon argued that this struggle is also cultural.

"For culture is first the expression of a nation, the expression of its preferences, of its taboos and of its patterns. It is at every stage of the whole of society that other taboos values and patterns are formed. A national culture is the sum total of all these appraisals; it is the result of internal and external extensions exerted over society as a whole and also at every level of that society. In the colonial situation, culture, which is doubly deprived of the support of the national and of the state, falls away and dies. The condition for its existence is therefore national liberation and the renaissance of the state.

"The nation is the condition of culture, its fruitfulness, its continuous renewal, and its deepening. It is also a necessity. It is the fight for national existence, which sets culture moving and opens to it the doors of creation. Later on it is the nation which will ensure the conditions and framework necessary to culture."

In one of his most famous [and most often quoted passages] Fanon discusses the role of the artist and intellectual:

"If we wanted to trace in the works of native writers the different phases which characterise this evolution we would find spread out before us a panorama on three levels. In the first phase, the native intellectual gives proof that he has assimilated the culture of the occupying power. His writings correspond point by point with those of his opposite numbers in the mother country. His inspiration is European and we can easily link up these works with definite trends in the literature of the mother country. This is the period of unqualified assimilation.

"In the second phase, we find the native is disturbed; he decides to remember what he is. This period of creative work approximately corresponds to that immersion which we have just described. But since the native is not a part of his people, since he only has exterior relations with his people, he is content to recall their life only. Past happenings of the bygone days of his childhood will be brought up out of the depths of his memory; old legends will be reinterpreted in the light of a borrowed aestheticism and of a conception of the world, which was discovered under other skies.

"Sometimes this literature of just-before-the-battle is dominated by humour and by allegory; but often too it is symptomatic of a period of distress and difficulty, where death is experienced, and disgust too. We spew ourselves up; but already underneath laughter can be heard.

"Finally, in the third phase, which is called the fighting phase, the native, after having tried to lose himself in the people and with the people, will on the contrary shake the people. Instead of according the people's lethargy an honoured place in his esteem, he turns himself into an awakener of the people; hence comes a fighting literature, a revolutionary literature, and a national literature. During this phase a great many men and women who up till then would never have thought of producing a literary work, now that they find themselves in exceptional circumstances - in prison, with the Maquis or on the eve of their execution - 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."

We can clearly see here the basic idea that blossoms into ideas of a distinctive anti-colonial culture, an anti-colonial art, and an anti-colonial cinema. Third cinema should be the combative art envisaged by Fanon.

Whilst Fanon gave examples of combative art from literature and the plastic arts, he did not specifically discuss cinema. However, Fanon did make general points about art. He warned against ';utilising techniques and language which are borrowed from the stranger in his country'. The whole experience of commercial and popular cinema is antithetical to the values of combative art. In their key manifesto Solanas and Getino transposed Fanon's ideas into a programme of cinema.

Quotations taken from 'Black Skin, White Masks' and 'The Wretched of the Earth', both by Frantz Fanon.

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Solanas and Getino

Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino were both Argentinean film-makers, involved in the Cinema Liberación movement and were the authors of the key manifesto 'Towards A Third Cinema'. The manifesto grew out of their experiences in making a mammoth three part, four hour, documentary, 'La Hora de los Hornos' [Hour of the Furnaces]. At the time Argentina was under military dictatorship and films were subject to severe censorship. So, 'Hour of the Furnaces' was both filmed and edited in secret. And it was exhibited to workers, students and various activists in clandestine meetings.

The film, and its making, were clearly extremely conscious political activities. Equally so were the screenings. “each showing for militants, middle-level cadres, activists, workers, and university students became … a kind of enlarged cell meeting of which the film were a part but not the most important factor.” The film was designed to be stopped in order to enable discussions among the participants. Just how political such events could be is demonstrated ‘by the students who raised barricades on the Avenida 18 de Julio in Montevideo after this showing of La hora de los hornos.’

Their manifesto was also strongly influenced by the many strands of anti-colonial struggle and movements of solidarity among third world peoples. They were clearly indebted to ideas and analyses found in Marx, Fanon and Mao Tse-tung. Sitting rather uneasily with these were slogans connected with the Argentinean populist leader, General Perón.

It was Peron’s return to power in 1973 that ended both the dictatorship and the censorship. In fact. Getino became head of the film censorship board. Among the films he authorised for release were 'State of Siege' [Costa Gavros, 1973] and 'Last Tango in Paris' [Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972]. Perón died in 1974. His second wife attempted to continue the legend. Her failure led to a covert civil war and the infamous Argentinean junta. Both Solanas and Getino went into exile, like many compatriots. In 1984 Getino published a reconsideration of the seminal manifesto, 'Some notes on the concept of a “Third Cinema”'. This included criticism of some of the Peronist ideas used in 'Towards A Third Cinema'.

Solanas continue as a film director, though his films have varied in their direct political content. 'El Viaje' [The Voyage 1991] seems like a magical-realist journey through Latin America. It details in satiric fashion the corruption of indigenous elites; the extreme exploitation by foreign capital; and the then recent military invasion of Panama by the USA. Rather different, in 1998, was 'La Nube' [The Cloud]. The film tracers the fortunes of a small, independent theatre in Buenos Aires. It explores the past and memories, and Solanas himself suggested it ‘was not a political film’.

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Shot from 'Hour of the Furnaces'


Towards A Third Cinema

Third Cinema is a set of practices that grew up in the rebellious climate of the 1960s. An early and influential definition is in a Manifesto written by two Argentinean film makers, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino. It was published in Tricontinental in October 1969. It grew out of their experience and involvement in 'Grupo Cine Liberaciòn' and the making and exhibiting of a radical oppositional film, 'The Hour of the Furnaces' [La hora de los hornos, 1968].

Their sense of what made a Third or Oppositional Cinema can be gauged by the sub-title of their manifesto 'Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World'.

In the manifesto, they identify and describe three very different sorts of cinema in the world at that time:


First Cinema - "conceived as a show to be exhibited in large theatres with standard duration, hermetic [closed] structures that are born and die on the screen ...: man is accepted only as a passive and consuming object;"

This is clearly the Hollywood model, and it's numerous copies. And they attack the particular examples that reduce the struggles and oppression of Third World Peoples to mere entertainment.

An example from 1968 was 'The Green Beret', one of many Hollywood star vehicles that reduced the horrors of the USA war against the Vietnamese people to just over two hours of entertainment - in glorious colour and widescreen. A contemporary example would be 'Three Kings' [USA 1999], where the 1991 war against Iraq provided an exotic backdrop for US male heroics. The recent remake of 'The Manchurian Candidate' offers a similar misuse. The villainy is seen as domestic US intrigue rather than the destruction visited on Iraq.

Second cinema - "the so-called 'author's cinema' [auteurs] ... This alternative signified a step forward inasmuch as it demanded that the film-maker be free to express himself in non-standard language and inasmuch as it was an attempt at cultural decolonization."

In terms of the 1960s, they identify the 'Nouvelle Vague' as an 'authors' cinema'. Films like 'Breathless' [À Bout De Souffle, Jean-Luc Godard, 1960] or 'The Four Hundred Blows' [Les Quatre Cents Coups, François Truffaut, 1959] were certainly made in non -standard film language, and offered rather different values from mainstream movies. However, they were also clearly expressions of an individual talent and point-of-view.

Solanas and Getino are critical of this type of film; "The second film-maker has remained 'trapped inside the fortress' as Godard put it." Their argument identifies one problem for film-maker now and then - that they frequently rely on Western capitalist Corporations like Canal Plus or Miramax for funding and distribution.

Third Cinema - "Real alternatives differing from those offered by the System are only possible if one of two requirements is fulfilled: making films that the System cannot assimilate and which are foreign to its needs, or making films that directly and explicitly set out to fight the system.

This was certainly the case with their own film, 'The Hour of the Furnaces'. It was made clandestinely and screenings were in non-cinematic venues, including breaks in the film for discussion and debate. The power of that debate is shown by the barricades erected by students in the city of Montevideo after a screening at the University.

The film opens with an extended and politically dramatic montage of oppression and resistance in Argentina. It clearly aimed, like the Soviet Montage films it followed, to be indigestible for the mainstream film system.

The manifesto does not envisage one particular type of oppositional film, "The differences that exist between one and another liberation process make sit impossible to lay down supposedly universal norms." It does however envisage a common set of values [ideological approach]: "revolutionary cinema is not fundamentally one, which illustrates, documents, or passively established a situation: rather, it attempts to intervene in the situation as an element providing thrust or rectification. To put it another way, it provides discovery through transformation."

One might say that a curry, a pint, or a club usually follows First Cinema. Viewing Second Cinema usually leads to a critical review or book. Third Cinema aims, as in Montevideo, to be followed by action.

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JULIO GARCIA ESPINOSA

Espinosa was a member of the radical University group Nuestro Tiempo. After visiting Italy and being impressed by the neo-realist films he made a documentary about Charcoal Burners, El Megano. Baptista’s police banned it because it gave an unacceptable but realistic image of Cuba.

After the revolution he was involved in film making but also in the debates in ICAIC about the correct way to develop revolutionary film. Out of this came a critical essay, For an Imperfect Cinema, which remains one of the most important theoretical statements in Latin American cinema.
An imperfect cinema is one that eschews technical perfection. Espinosa does not argue that technical and artistic perfection are wrong in themselves. He argues that they can become ends in themselves: both for film makers and audiences. Aesthetic perfection can demand of spectators that they only passively view and enjoy. An imperfect cinema is one that addresses the issues and interests of its audience. It therefore requires audiences that participate in that art.

Espinosa’s argument is two-fold: that audiences must be involved in making the meanings of films, rather than just consuming them. Hence the sort of film represented by 'Memories of Underdevelopment', where the audiences has to read and interpret. He is also looking forward to developments that will enable audiences to be involved in making films.

"The task currently at hand is to find out if the conditions which will enable spectators to transform themselves into agents – not merely more active spectators, but genuine co-authors – are beginning to exist."

His arguments clearly parallel those made by Solanas and Getino in their manifesto and by Sanjines in his. It also shares an approach to cultural activity with Fanon and the authors of the Algiers Declaration.The argument is about artistic criteria, which should be seen to be not aesthetic or entertainment values, but political and ideological.

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FOR AN IMPERFECT CINEMA

Julio García Espinosa was an important film maker in what could be called the Cuban New Wave. He was one of the young film makers who graduated through the amateur cine club. Like Fernando Birri and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, he studied at the Centro Sperimentale in Rome and was influenced by Italian neo-realism. He directed the documentary 'El Megano' in the late 1950s, and after the revolution became director of ICAIC. Out of the experiences and debates within the new Cuban Cinema Espinosa developed his idea of imperfect cinema. This was to be an ideological cinema rather than a cinema obsessed with glamorous stories and production values, [First Cinema].

"Popular art has absolutely nothing to do with what is called mass art. Popular art needs and consequently tends to develop the personal, individual taste of a people. On the other hand, mass art (or art for the masses), requires the people have no taste. It will only be genuine when it is actually the masses who create it, since at present it is art produced by a few for the masses."

It would be a cinema occupied with values rather than aesthetics [Second Cinema].

"There can be no 'impartial' or 'uncommitted' art, there can be no new and genuine qualitative jump is art, unless the concept and the reality of the 'elite' is done away with once and for all."

This manifesto, like that of Solanas and Getino, was critical of the focus on individual performers and makers.

"Imperfect cinema rejects exhibitionism in both [literal] senses of the word, the narcissistic and the commercial (getting shown in established theatres and circuits). It should be remembered that the death of the star-system turned out to be a positive thing for art. There is no doubt that the disappearance of the director as star will offer similar prospects."

Espinosa then emphasises the approach to form and technique of this new cinema.

"Imperfect cinema is no longer interested in quality or technique. It can be created equally well with a Mitchell [a 35mm studio camera] or with an 8mm camera, in a studio or in a guerrilla camp in the middle of the jungle. Imperfect cinema is no longer interested in predetermined taste and much less in 'good taste'."

Espinosa's predictions about stars and auteurs have yet to pass. But the new technologies of video and digital filming clearly offer possibilities for the type of film making he advocates. This manifesto also needs to be read wit the warning of Michael Chanan in mind:

"Much misunderstood, the essay begins as a warning against the technical perfection which after ten years now lay within the grasp of the Cuban film makers.... For the thesis is not that technical and artistic perfection necessarily prevents a film being politically affective - that would be absurd - but that in the underdeveloped world these cannot be aims in themselves. And not only because attempting to match production values of the big commercial movie is a waste of resources, but also because in commercial cinema as an institution these values become irredeemably superficial, the beautifully controlled surface becomes a way of lulling the audience into passive consumption."

[Michael Chanan, 1983].

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Model SUBSECTIONS:

  • model

  • Tshombe H. Gabriel

  • Form and Style

  • Publications



    model

    THE MODEL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF
    FILM CULTURE AND INSTITUTIONS:



    The model can be read in two ways:

    Firstly, the model can be used to discuss the Critical Components of Third Cinema, in which case:

    A = Production
    B = Text
    C = Reception

    Alternatively, the model can be used to discuss the Developmental Phases of Third Cinema, where:

    A = Assimilation Phase
    B = Remembrance Phase
    C = Combative Phase

    As a film culture and its institutions develop it integrates with the developing national culture, as do each of the components.

    Thus, when Production, Text and Reception are integrated with National Consciousness we arrive at a Combative Cinema.

    Thus in terms of film components there is an need: to move from a distinctive view, where there is a fragmentary or non-existent relationship through to the integrated view, where the production process, the films and the audience combine in a political and national culture that is combative. One of the besetting problems of African cinema is the production dependency on Europe, and more particularly France. Even today, this dependency continues. The developing analogue and digital video markets offer options that require a far lower input of capital. Many of the films that emanate from Africa, India and Latin America, offer a different form and language and engage with the indigenous culture, but frequently the consumption of these films take place in Film Festivals and Art Cinemas in western continents rather than by the audiences of that culture. Tshombe suggests that Cuban cinema offers an Integrated View, with its control and interaction between production, film and audience. An alternative example that offers a high degree of integration would be the films made by Ukamau, with native Indians advising on the production, the films directly taking up political relevant political issues, and bought to Indian audiences in their own communities. The political video and digital films in, for example, the occupied Palestinian territories and the South African townships have achieved something similar.

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  • Model SUBSECTIONS:

  • model

  • Tshombe H. Gabriel

  • Form and Style

  • Publications



    Tshombe H. Gabriel

    In 1986 the Edinburgh International Film Festival organised a three-day forum on Third Cinema. One paper, presented by Gabriel, offered a Critical Theory of Third World Films. One component of the paper was a model which offered a discriminating viewpoint on Third Cinema films.

    Gabriel’s model includes the three phases of cultural production among oppressed peoples identified by Frantz Fanon. He also includes components of critical theory or analysis; essentially, the production of films; the actual films; their reception. He argues that in analysing Third Cinema we need to view it dialectically. Thus, a film makers might make a clearly politically conscious film, however, s/he is restricted by the financing or production: or [possibly as well] faces insuperable obstacles in reaching the target audience.

    Examples would include many Third World film-makers who depend on Western finance and/or production facilities in the hands of classes and groups with rather different agendas. Completed films are more frequently seen by Festival or Art House audiences than by the film-makers own oppressed cultural group.

    Sub-Saharan African films have depended to varying degrees on French finance and French production facilities. Even when made they are hampered by the control of both distribution and exhibition by major western corporations. Ousmane Sembène attempted to combat these problems by setting up his own production company. One film, 'Camp de Thiaroye' was jointly funded by three African countries rather than by French finance. He also recounts taking the films round for screening himself. The BFI 'Africa Cinema' has a powerful account by a young African, who only encountered African films when he was able for the first time to go to FESPACO.

    In India the Parallel Cinema movement was dependent to a degree by on State finance and the State-run television service. This included films some of which supported a anti-state guerrilla movement, The Naxalites.

    Gabriel suggests that one example where the critical components were all integrated in a conscious liberation movement was Cuba and ICAIC. Another example would be the Ukamau group, who made their films among the oppressed Indians and then organised their own distribution and exhibition.

    Gabriel’s article explores and argues over these sort of complexities, which are clearly continuing contradictions for cultural and cinematic work in neo-colonial situations.

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  • Model SUBSECTIONS:

  • model

  • Tshombe H. Gabriel

  • Form and Style

  • Publications



    Form and Style

    Third Cinema clearly embraces a range of stylistic approaches. Solanas and Getino, in their manifesto, echo Fanon with the prescription, "Pamphlet films, didactic films, report films, essay films, witness-bearing films - any militant form of expression is valid and it would be absurd to lay down a set of aesthetic work norms." And indeed, there are many styles to be found in the film of Third Cinema. Latin American films have made creative use of the rhythms of the continent's music. The Cinema Novo in Brazil creatively interacted with a musical movement, Tropicalism. African films have made frequent use of the traditional storyteller, the griot. A number of Indian films provide a musical counter-point to the song and dance formulas of 'Bollywood'.

    Even so, there are continuities. Many independent western films follow the conventions of continuity editing developed and dominated by Hollywood. This is logical as they address similar audiences in similar language. Equally, there are certain techniques and style that appear to be especially conducive to Third Cinema films.

    After setting out his theoretical model for analysing Third Cinema Gabriel Tshombe went on to categorise the common areas of style. He argues that there are certain tendency of style in Third Cinema that reflect the its different cultural base. He argues that space is more important than time: a reverse of the relationship in western cinema. Sembène's "Ceddo" is a masterly film, which, in it 'misuse' of time is likely to appear confused to western audiences. Tshombe also provides a chart of common plotting and techniques. These include:

    Narrative position - heroes and heroines are less central in such films. In mainstream western films, either the hero or the heroine performs the most important actions. In a film such as "Xala", a group like the beggars becomes central by the end of the film.

    Direct address - Tshombe notes how western films avoid the direct gaze of a character. Apparently, this is a general convention preached in film schools. But many third films privilege the direct gaze to camera [and audience] of a protagonist. The most powerful is in a film not available in the UK, Med Hondo's "West Indies" [1979], where an insouciant black man asks the audiences why they are watching African movies?

    The long shot - in terms of distance from the subject. Many films use this technique to emphasise the context in which characters and actions occur. Sanjinés' "The Clandestine Nation" [1989] repeatedly positions the viewer at a reflexive distance from the action.

    The Long take - this refers to duration. Whilst commercial films in the west use increasingly shorter shot lengths, third world films often seen slow by comparison because of their use of lengthy takes.

    Montage - the use of discontinuities, usually in editing, but also in framing and composition. The use of montage has a long pedigree in alternative films right back to the Soviets. In a manner that parallels the theatrical distance advocated by Brecht, disruptions in continuity can impact of the spectator. Santiago Alvarez's great documentary "79 primaveras" ["79 Springs", 1969] in memory of Ho Chi Minh, ends in a violent cascade of images that demand the attention and response of the viewer. The South African township film, "Mapantsula" [1988] uses a complex set of sound discontinuities to position a viewer for the protagonist's final rejection of apartheid threats.

    Tracks and pans - Tshombe notes that pans especially tend in western cinema to move from left to right, film from the Middle East tend to move right to left. The writer has constantly notice parallel tracks in both Middle and Far Eastern films following this axis.

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  • Publications



    Publications

    We have tried to include links to a variety of WebPages with useful and further information. There is also a range of published works on Third Cinema available in English. A number of such books were published in the 1980s when there was an amount of interest, [including academic conferences]. More recent works often deal with individual film makers or national or regional cinemas rather than dealing with the larger movement.


    Questions of Third Cinema

    Edited by Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, BFI, 1989.

    This publication followed on a conference on Third Cinema held at the Edinburgh Festival. It includes the article by Gabriel Tshombe. A number of the articles use fairly academic language.


    Third World Film Making & the West

    By Roy Ames, University of California Press, 1987.

    This volume has an overall discussion, then deals with national and regional areas and profiles key film makers.


    Film & Politics in the Third World

    Edited by John D. H. Downing, Autonomedia 1987.

    This contains a number of key articles by film makers, and about particular areas and films.


    New Latin American Cinema

    Edited by Michael T. Martin, Wayne State University Press, 1997.

    In two volumes, volume one reprints a number of the important manifestos, including that by Solanas and Getino.


    African Cinema

    By Manthia Diawara, Indiana University Press 1992.

    Detailed and accessible study of African film.


    The Cuban Image

    By Michael Chanan, BFI 1985.

    Very detailed and sympathetic study. Chanan also has a useful website and has made a documentary film about New Latin American Cinema.


    Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema

    Edited by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, BFI 1999.

    Comprehensive volume on Indian cinema, including both mainstream and parallel films.


    Cineaste

    Quarterly film journal published in New York.

    Frequently has articles on Third Cinema and its film makers. The Winter 2004 issue had an interview with Ousmane Sembène.


    Framework

    Now defunct film journal published at the University of East Anglia in the 1980s.

    Published a mass of material on Third Cinema.


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