What is Third Cinema or Third Cinema Theory?
What is Third Cinema?
Third Cinema, also called Third World Cinema; a type of film and film theory prevalent in Africa, Latin America, and Asia that strives to transform society by educating and radicalizing the film audience through “subversive” cinema.
When Did it Began?
According to the Africana encyclopedia which is the source of this article, in the early 1960s, a series of events paved the way for a new and distinctive type of Third World Film. In Africa, decolonization freed film directors such as Med Hondo, Ousmane Sembene, and Haile Gerima to create films for and about Africans.
In Asia and Latin America, revolutionary movements, mixed with development of Marxist film theory and Italian neorealism, inspired film directors such as Indian Satyajit Ray, Bolivian Jorge Sanjines to produce politically charged films. Guided by the assumption that all film is ideological, they experimented with film as a weapon against the cultural imperialism of Hollywood.
Why the label?
Following the next decade, film directors from Asia, Africa and Latin America met and discussed their work at international film festivals and meetings. They coined their cinema “Third Cinema” to identify with the Third World and to differentiate it from the “first,” or traditional, cinema (characterized by commercial films produced by Hollywood) and the “second,” or counter, cinema (characterized by art film movements such as French New Wave). By the end of the sixties, Third Cinema had established itself as an influential theory, especially in Africa.
Inspired by Marxist film criticism and the writings of Frantz Fanon, Third Cinema theory radically reinterprets the relationship between film, director and audience. It characterizes traditional film directors as agents of capitalism who “sell” to their passive viewers movies that promote colonial stereotypes and consumer society values. According to African American filmmaker Charles Burnett, traditional Hollywood cinema “concocts an artificial mental landscape harmonious with capitalism’s need to depersonalize its audience into zombies of its economy and addicts of its industrial culture, and to thrash, trivialize, and erase the human culture that supply its victims.”
Goals For Change
By contrast, Third Cinema must, in the words of Latin American directors Fernando Solanas and Octavia Getino, produce “films that directly and explicitly set out to fight the System.” Director Jorges Sanjines also chipped in to say, “the work of revolutionary cinema must not limit itself to denouncing, or to the appeal for reflection; it must be a summon for action.” In fact, films such as Me Gustan Los Estudiantes (1969,Mario Handler) and La Hora De Los Hornos (1968,Fernando Solanas, Octavio Getino) provoked student riots in Uruguay and Venezuela during the late 1960’s. Since the mid- 1970’s however, the goal of most Third Cinema directors has been to inspire political and social change rather than complete revolution.
In sub-Saharan Africa, most filmmakers subscribe to the ideas of Third Cinema and make films that are often quite critical of the post colonial bourgeoisie. The films of Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé and Med Hondo fuse documentary and fiction, using ambiguous and unresolved endings to invite discussion from the audience. In Asia and Latin America,Third cinema filmmakers now constitute only a small minority, but they continue to denounce capitalism and cultural imperialism as well as the persistent problem of racism.