Third Cinema revisited

Just another weblog

About this Blog

The materials posted on this Blog were originally written with a colleague for a series of Seminars organised by Hall Place Studios [now defunct] at the Leeds International Film Festival.

The materials are posted on a Website, Third Cinema Revisited, constructed by students at Leeds College of Art and Design. There is a link to this site.

The articles and comments are being added to and placed here. They are published in the hope of encouraging the viewing and debating a whole area of cinema which is only spasmodically available in the UK and which now receives much less attention than in the 1980s and 1990s. The view here is that these films are still relevant, and indeed, that there is still a militant ant-colonial cinema that can both stimulate audiences and offer an alternative to the dominant cinema which continues to justify occupation, oppression and exploitation in the Third World.

Third Cinema is not only notable for the films it has produced, but also for a collection of articles, manifestos and critical engagements, which provide the ideas that underpin 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]

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 that has continued 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 (1987).

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, [though it is not strictly speaking a product of the colonial oppressed].

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.

Such writings also emphasised the distinctive form and style necessary to a cinema of opposition. So, their arguments counterpoised to the lavish, expansive star laden vehicles of the mainstream cinema [dominated by Hollywood] and the auteur films found in Art cinema, [First Cinema] with their gloss and high production values, plus independent filmmakers working within the confines of the commercial industry [Second Cinema] a cinema that expressed the cultures of resistance. This is embodied in the ideas found in another Manifesto,  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 underpin them. An important issue is defining what types of oppositional cinemas should be included. The Manifesto Towards a Third Cinema at one point suggests that oppositional cinemas in advanced capitalist countries and among oppressed peoples and nations are both part of this movement. So some writers include class conscious films from the UK. However, the same Manifesto also cites the ideas of Mao Tse-Tung and Franz Fanon, both political thinkers who made a clear distinction between class struggle in an advanced capitalist country and national liberation struggle in a country suffering from colonialism or neo-colonialism. Following this distinction this Blog focuses on the cinema of the latter struggles: especially in the continents of Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

3 Responses to “About this Blog”

  1. koojchuhan said

    Is this blog now defunct? what a great start to something much needed…

  2. keith1942 said

    Sorry, I am just recuperating from a fairly lengthy viral infection.
    I should post again soon.

  3. koojchuhan said

    apologies, and thanks for replying – take care!

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