La Furia Umana
  • I’m not like evereybody else
    The Kinks
  • E che, sono forse al mondo per realizzare delle idee?
    Max Stirner
  • (No ideas but in things)
    W.C. Williams
ÂNGELA PRYSTHON, PAUL GRANT and RAQUEL SCHEFER / From Third Cinema to Post/De/Anti Colonial 

ÂNGELA PRYSTHON, PAUL GRANT and RAQUEL SCHEFER / From Third Cinema to Post/De/Anti Colonial 

The concept of the Third-World served from the 1960s onwards – beyond the euphemistic and conservative boundaries of contemporary geography – to establish a unity of a libertarian and idealist nature. The processes of decolonization, social awareness and political struggle unleashed across the globe throughout this period are not exhausted in themselves: they are part of the great crisis of modernity that also implies a cultural reorganization (or disorganization) in all corners of the globe. One of the most direct and evident influences of Third World consciousness (and all its implications) was the very constitution of the idea of Third Cinema.

In accordance with the idea of ​​transforming society through the awareness brought to light by Third World ideals, the main themes of the Third Cinema films were poverty, social oppression, urban violence in swollen and miserable metropolises, the history of colonized and oppressed peoples and the constitution of nations. Third Cinema practitioners refused to adopt a single model of formal strategies or transform themselves into a “style”, although this does not mean that they were alien to the trends of world cinema.

In other words, in addition to seeking the themes in the marginalized spheres of society, these filmmakers demonstrated close stylistic ties with Italian neo-realism and the French Nouvelle Vague, just to mention two of their main influences. Such influences could be detected on two main levels: Italian neo-realism served as a s a formal approach that can be leveraged for its simplicity, low cost and straightforward language; and the Nouvelle Vague as an affirmation of “author cinema”, which enables the consolidation of the individual languages ​​of the main exponents of the movement. 

On the one hand, open and simple techniques (in contrast to the technological sophistication of the Hollywood studio model), on the other, the transmission of complex and revolutionary ideas, such as third-world liberation, theories of underdevelopment, etc. Third Cinema can thus be seen as a statement on two-way cosmopolitanism: first, as a peripheral interpretation of the latest European aesthetic trends (old-fashioned cosmopolitanism) such as neo-realism and the Nouvelle Vague. Second, as a denial of this traditional cosmopolitanism where there is a Metropolitan Center defining what subaltern peoples should do. In the Third Cinema, the deprived are placed in the Center. The attitude is one of rebellion and not just aesthetic rebellion, but political and social action rebellion.

It is irrefutable that the Third Cinema, which had its first and perhaps most eminent filmmakers and theorists in Latin America (Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino in Argentina; Glauber Rocha in Brazil, Jorge Sanjinés in Bolivia, just to mention a few) (DISSANAYAKE and GUNERATNE, 2003, 3), it had its heyday at exactly the same time when the Third World call echoed most strongly, that is, during the 60s, the apex of the counterculture and a crucial moment of formation, practice and theorization of a “geopolitical aesthetic” (JAMESON, 1995). And just as third-worldist utopias were fading away throughout the 1980s, so the notion of Third Cinema was gradually losing its place (both in movie theaters and as a topic of research in Film Studies).

The 1980s were almost definitive for “Third Worldism” (for the concept of the Third World, for the Third World aesthetic, for the third world revolutionary practice that was left of it). First, because it was from this decade that the validity of the term was theoretically questioned with more emphasis, precisely from Cultural Studies and post-colonialism. Also in the 80’s, we began to witness the demise of the Second World (culminating in its “dissolution” as the Second World, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989). The non-alignment with the great powers was exhausted as a strategy of resistance and ideological opposition. For this reason too, the radical third-worldist aesthetic perished and other “third margins” were sought, since the apology of the oppressed no longer seemed to work. Perhaps there was the final disillusionment of the Third World as a unified and indivisible category:

“The term Third World, post-colonial critics insist, was quite vague in encompassing within one uniform category vastly heterogeneous historical circumstances and in locking in fixed positions, structurally if not geographically, societies and populations that shifted with changing global relationships.” (DIRLIK, 332)

If the 1980s represented a kind of vacuum for Third Cinema (and for Third World aesthetics) as a whole, the second half of the 1990s and the first half 2000s meant the re-emergence of many of the issues linked to the political-social imaginary of the 1960s and 1970s.  However, what we can call the “reinsurgency of the periphery” or the “re-enactment of subalternity” took place in a very different way from the previous politically engaged discourse.

We could say that, in a very general way, the 1980s were a period in which the representation of political aspects did not seem to be part of the cultural dominant of the main “Third World” film producers (especially Latin America). However, the crescent interest in peripheral film traditions in the 1990s and 2000s represents less a drastic change and more a gradual maturation of previous cultural (and even theoretical) precepts. The world academic trends themselves towards an appreciation of the ex-centric, the peripheral, the marginal (BHABHA, 1998) had an invigorating effect on national cinemas. Even the renewed philosophical and sociological paradigms brought to the fore by Cultural Studies and postcolonial theories, although in a very lateral and specific way, contributed not only to reawakening interest in the now called World Cinema, but to revitalizing the instruments of reading and reception of the films.

The present dossier on Post/De/Anti Colonial Cinemas seeks to address the complexity of the current context of World Cinema through a very diverse set of lenses. “Fragments d’un cinéma-boa tikmũ’ũn” is a collective exercise, based on conversations between the Tikmũ’ũn (people from the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil) filmmakers, teachers and researchers Sueli and Isael Maxakali, the ethnomusicologist Rosangela de Tugny, who works with the Maxakali, an ethnic group of Amerindian people in Brazil, and the film researcher André Brasil. It centres on the Tikmũ’ũn’s worlds, knowledges, and forms of life, based on multiple shamanism. In her paper, Claire Allouche problematizes her “lugar de fala” (place of speak) as a French researcher conducting doctoral research on the “peripherization” of contemporary Argentinian and Brazilian cinema.

Sílvio Marcus de Souza Correa approaches the biography and filmography of Beninese/Senegalese filmmaker and historian Paulin Soumanou Vieyra’s and the African diaspora cinematography. The present dossier also contains an unpublished interview made to Jean-Luc Godard by the Mozambican filmmaker Sol de Carvalho and journalist Maria August in Maputo in 1979. Godard reflects on the political potentiality of film, video, and television, also approaching his experience in revolutionary Mozambique to assist in the establishment of the country’s first television station after the independence from Portugal in 1975. Portuguese colonialism and colonial wars are the subject of Paulo Cunha’s paper which discusses one of the first films approaching the return of colonial soldiers to the country, António-Pedro Vasconcelos’ Goodbye, until my return (1974). Tiago Afonso engages in a critical dialogue with an invisible film, Vítor Silva’s O Campo Toma a Palavra (1976), documenting the cooperative movement in revolutionary Portugal. Afonso reflects on the possibility of writing history in non-hegemonic cinema from the point of view of the subaltern and the defeated against the project of misremembering. Thomas Harlan’s Torre Bela (circa 1977) is one of the films analyzed by the author. David Faroult’s essay approaches the last film made by the German filmmaker, Souvenance (1990), co-directed with Anna Devoto and shot in Haiti. Souvenance adapts a local myth: the resurrection of the murdered Emperor Jacques I of Haiti, who declared Haiti as independent from France and the first Black-led republic in 1804. Faroult argues that Harlan’s film démarche is based on the premise that the only possibility of making a film in a country dominated by imperialism being a filmmaker from an imperialist country is not to deny the imperialistic relation binarily, but to assume dialectically “the moral duty to subordinate the aesthetic choices to the singularity of the culture that we come to ‘steal’, plunder”. Faroult’s paper thus considers a double extractivism: colonial-capitalist extraction, and cognitive-cultural extraction, discussing the political potentia of cinema.

In his paper, Diogo Amaral approaches Rona Sela’s Looted and Hidden (2017), an Israeli documentary composed mainly of movies and footage taken by Israeli soldiers from Palestinian film archives in Beirut in 1982, while Catarina Andrade and Mariana Cunha discuss the representation of the body in the film Black Venus (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2010). The Philippines is one of the central regions of this report, containing three papers by Nomar Bayog Miano, Joel David, and Adrian Mendizabal, the last one analyzing the chronopolitical crisis of contemporary philippine cinema. The final piece of the present report is a visual essay by Ângela Prysthon produced in collaboration with the Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade.

Ângela Prysthon, Paul Grant and Raquel Schefer