An Ephemeral Third Cinema

Film, Exhibition & Curation student Natalia Gonzalez writes about An ephemeral Third Cinema (Submitted Nov 2012)

Third cinema is, in our opinion, the cinema that recognises in that struggle the most gigantic cultural, scientific, and artistic manifestation of our time, the great possibility of constructing a liberated personality with each people as the starting point – in a word, the decolonisation of culture.”

Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino

 In Towards a Third Cinema, 1969

It has been more than forty years since the concept of Third Cinema was first defined. According to Argentinian filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, film productions should be divided into three mayor models based on the audiences’ response to the film, which also places these models in a social hierarchy. Mainstream movies (Hollywood productions) were catalogued as First cinema; the Second cinema includes auteur cinema and any independent films outside the Hollywood structure; and the Third cinema, movies made “by the people for the people”, sought to motivate audiences to get involved and be aware of social movements. These models triggered a series of discussions around the subject which continues today.

Third Cinema was born in Latin America, at a time where social instability in Third World countries led to a number of movements that inspired filmmakers to take part and document them, either as fiction or non-fiction. Although the manifesto shared the ideology with other countries around the world, its exhibition policies restricted films even more. With an attempt to reject a commercial goal, Third Cinema, cloistered itself, not allowing films to achieve an international audience, at least not as a main objective. The time and place where it was developed empowered it to stand out and to inspire those who supported the cause to take part on these social movements, but through the passing of years the term showed to be as controversial as the own Third Cinema films intended to be.

The Battle of Algiers (1966), by the Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo and The Hour of the Furnaces (1968) directed by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, are considered the most representative film productions of Third Cinema. The Battle of Algiers shows a struggling Algerian society against its government; eventually, people achieve its independence from France. The film was excluded from the First and Second categories, and was considered a Third cinema movie since It also coincided with a lot of social revolutions in America, where the idea of this Third Cinema was being developed. Although it is not strange that there are not so many examples available, besides The Hour of the Furnaces and some other productions, films were not consciously produced in order to belong to the movement.

The discrepancies around the term “Third Cinema”, I believe, are based on the fact that it does not suggest any artistic or innovative variation within the film production aesthetics. It, instead, tries to create support among countries that have suffered from the oppression from more powerful countries, same countries that still dominate the film industry and which not surprisingly, are the main authors of the discussions around the subject of Third Cinema.

Filmmakers and critics have always made an effort to divide films according to the ideology behind, its form, and its expected audience. In a way, this partition has sought to place films in a regional, political, economical and cultural context, which has worked out for a more comprehensive study of film history. Third Cinema theory produced uncertainty among film scholars, and although some of them, nowadays, assure the term is dead, continuous discussions around the subject have kept it very much alive.