Third Cinema is a revolutionary film movement that emerged in the 1960s as a response to the dominant ideals of Hollywood (1st Cinema) and European art cinema (2nd Cinema). Grounded in the principles of social justice, cultural authenticity and political engagement, it represents a radical departure from traditional filmmaking, aiming to address the socio-political realities of the Global South, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Origins of Third Cinema
Beginnings of Third Cinema can be traced back to the cultural transformations of the 1960s. During this period, many countries in the Global South were grappling with the aftermath of colonialism, and seeking to redefine their identities in the wake of newfound independence. It was in this context that filmmakers in Latin America, Africa and Asia began to question the narrative and cultural representations imposed by First Cinema, largely dominated by Hollywood, and Second Cinema, by European art cinema.
In 1969, Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino define the ideas and aspirations of this movement in their manifesto “Toward a Third Cinema“. The document proposed a vision for a cinema that would be distinctly different from both the commercial escapism of Hollywood, and the often esoteric experimentation of European art films. Solanas and Getino proposed a cinema that would be politically engaging, socially relevant, and deeply rooted in the cultural realities of the Global South.
Third Cinema sought to create a space for the voices of those who had been historically marginalized and silenced in the global discourse.
Characteristics of Third Cinema
One of the key principles of Third Cinema is its storytelling commitment from the perspective of the oppressed. Filmmakers often rejected the traditional narrative structures and conventions imposed by mainstream cinema, instead prioritizing on authentic representation of their cultures, histories and struggles. It was a cinema of resistance, activism and cultural identity, seeking to empower marginalized communities and challenge the neocolonial structures.
Filmmakers within the movement collaborated with local communities, involving them in the filmmaking process, and ensuring that the stories told are representative and authentic. They emphasized the importance of collective identity and solidarity, using cinema as a tool for social change and mobilization. The goal was not merely to entertain, but to educate and inspire audiences to engage critically with the world around them.
In addition to challenging narrative conventions, Third Cinema is characterized by a distinct visual style. Filmmakers experimented with cinematography, using innovative techniques, incorporating elements such as documentary footage, news reels, video clips, interviews and non-professional actors. These elements were creatively blended to convey the message aimed for the specific local audience.
Important Filmmakers and Films
In Latin America, filmmakers such as Cinema Novo’s Glauber Rocha from Brazil and Tomas Gutierrez Alea from Cuba, contributed significantly to the Third Cinema movement. Rocha’s films, like “Entranced Earth” (1968), are known for their experimental style and their critique of neocolonialism. Tomas Alea, on the other hand, focused on issues of race, class, and political power in films such as “Memories of Underdevelopment” (1968).
Notable example of Third Cinema is the cinema of African filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, often referred to as the “father of African cinema”. In his films, he explored post-colonial issues, cultural conflicts and the challenges faced by the working class. Film “Black Girl” (1966) is considered a classic of Third Cinema, addressing themes of identity and alienation.
Though predating the formalization of Third Cinema, Parallel Cinema’s Satyajit Ray’s works, particularly his “Apu Trilogy”, are often considered early examples of a cinema that authentically captures the social and economic struggles of post-colonial India.
Legacy and influence of Third Cinema
While the term “Third Cinema” may not be used today, its influence can be seen in the continued efforts to tell stories about marginalized, challenging dominant narratives, and exploring innovative methods of filmmaking. The legacy of Third Cinema lives in the ongoing struggle for cultural authenticity and social justice within the realm of cinema.
The movement’s ideals remain relevant, and its legacy can be traced not only by filmmakes, but also in scholars, activists, and cultural theorists who recognize the potential of cinema as a transformative force in society.