Martin, Michael T.  New Latin American Cinema.  Vol. 1: Theory, Practices, and Transcontinental Articulations
Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1997.

Fernando Solanas & Octavio Getino.  “Towards a Third Cinema. Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World” 33-58

I. FIRST CINEMA: Films within the capitalist system are seen as spectacle or entertainment (a consumer good). They only deal with effects, never with causes.  They constitute a cinema of mystification or anti-historicism (surplus value).  At best (ideologically) they serve as witness of a cultural (bourgeois) decay and social injustice.  The models of production, distribution, and exhibition continue to be those of Hollywood.  Culture, art, science, and cinema respond to conflicting class interests.  The image of reality of First Cinema is more important than reality itself.  It is a fantasy world, this bourgeois imaginary universe replete with comfort, equilibrium, sweet reason, order, efficiency, and the possibility of being someone. 

The intellectual is merely one more worker who must become radicalized to avoid denial of self.  Film generates a certain ideology (bourgeois), which is to create the spectator into a consumer instead of a creator of ideology. 

II. SECOND CINEMA: The alternative to First Cinema is the “author’s cinema” (also called “art cinema,” “expression cinema,” “nouvelle vague,” “cinema novo,” of Second Cinema).  Here the filmmaker is free to express himself in non-standard language.  However, Second Cinema obscures inner causes.  Moreover, although it is nonconformist, it is also merely individually rebellious. 

III. THIRD CINEMA: liberates and decolonizes one from US and European models.  As such, it is revolutionary and subversive in its pursuit of truth.  It is not enough merely to “reform” things.  After all, capitalist societies allow non-conformism in order to contain it better.  One must be on the margin of the law.  Socialism is the only valid perspective of any national liberation process.  One must make films that the System cannot assimilate and which are foreign to its needs, films that fight the System.  This is Third Cinema.  Films offer an effective pretext for gathering an audience, in addition to the ideological message they contain.  Living documents present a naked reality.  Third Cinema is cinema of documentaries and of reconstructions of historical events.  It is pamphlet films, didactic films, report films, essay films, witness-bearing films.  This film is not a passive medium, for it provides discovery through transformation (cf. Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11). It is also imperfect cinema.  It is democratic (popular), not aristocratic (intellectual) or bourgeois (commercial).  The filmmaker also knows all aspects of cinema (he does not specialize in one area only).  Guerrilla filmmaking involves cooperation.  Third Cinema is shown in cultural centers, universities, parishes, schools, apartments.  Its showing is akin to a liturgical event.  The film is a pretext for dialogue and a meeting.  It brings people together in dialogue.  The film is also open-ended and serves as a way to learn.  It must transform the world.  Every film projection is different.  It contributes to a collective decolonization.  The world is scrutinized, unraveled, rediscovered.  People are witness to a constant astonishment, a kind of second birth.  Freeing a forbidden truth means setting free the possibility of indignation and subversion.  It must politicize and mobilize the masses.   The cinema of the revolution is one of destruction (of the image that neocolonialism has created of itself and the Third World) and construction (of a throbbing, living reality which recaptures truth in any of its expressions).

Glauber Rocha.  “An Aesthetic of Hunger.“ 59-61.

For the European spectator, the artistic creation of the underdeveloped world is of interest only insofar as it satisfies a nostalgia for primitivism.  The economic and political conditions of Latin America have created a philosophical weakness, on the one hand, or hysteria, on the other.  Cinema Novo (a “new cinema” of sad, ugly, desperate, and irrational films) shows that the normal behavior of the starving is violence.  This violence, however, is not “primitivistic” but revolutionary.  This is the violence that enables the (European) colonizer to become fully aware of the colonized.  Only when confronted with violence does the colonizer understand, through horror, the strength of the culture he exploits.  As long as the colonized do not take arms, the colonized become slaves.  Brutal and violent action is necessary for (revolutionary) transformation and to escape for (bourgeois) complacency or (intellectual) contemplation.  Cinema Novo exposes the truth (of the “System” and its mass-exploitation) and is opposed to the hypocrisy and repression of intellectual censorship.  Cinema Novo aims to liberate Latin America (from untruth and economic exploitation) by making the public aware of its misery (First Cinema “entertains” and “hides” inner causes of conflict by its stress on “effects” and the passivity of the consuming spectator). [Lauer’s note: some films from the First World that might perhaps come close to the aesthetics or ideology of Cinema Novo might be Gus van Sant’s Elephant [US, 2003], Lars von Trier’s Dogville [Denmark, 2003], Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine [US, 2002], Wim Wenders’ Land of Plenty [Germany, 2004], and Antonia Bird’s Hamburg Cell [UK, 2004])].

Jorge Sanjinés.  “Problems of Form and Content in Revolutionary Cinema.” 62-70

Revolutionary cinema is not individualistic but a collective enterprise.  The protagonist of popular cinema is the people. Their individual stories have meaning only when they serve the collective, or the people’s understanding (not the individual psyche).  The individual hero must give way to the popular hero.  In First (bourgeois, commercial, exploitation) Cinema, the problems of the individual assume overblown proportions.  In Third Cinema, collective problems are resolved within revolutionary society through the problems of confronting the problems of society (not just of the individual psyche) as a whole.  In this way, individual neuroses disappear and the individual is integrated into revolutionary society (Lauer’s note: Marxism believes that in capitalist society, the individual worker becomes alienated on account of specialization and a class structure).  Revolutionary cinema prefers general (wide-angle) and sequence shots on account of their (“historical”) “objectivity” instead of close-ups, for close-ups impose a psychological subjectivity (of a character) and/or the point of view (POV) of the filmmaker (who might use a character as a surrogate for his own ideology) [Lauer’s note: think of the wounded US soldier filmed by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11 who tells the director/us that he is going to vote Democratic].  The distance imposed by the wide angle, long shot of the collective protagonist provides an objective (“historical”) representation that allows the viewer to reflect on the situation (cf. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin) rather than get emotionally involved or psychologically involved with an individual character (cf. Halle Berry trying to escape from the “ghost” in Gothika, etc.). 

The Indinas in Bolivia who viewed Sanjinés’ films (like Yawar mallku [Blood of the Condor] {1969}) understood it because of their social traditions.  Bolivian Indians see themselves as integral members of a community first, and only later as isolated individuals.  The Indian (unlike a Latino [an urbanite] in this case [or a European]) exists mainly in interaction with everybody and everything (nature, etc.).  When that equilibrium is upset, the Indian becomes disoriented (the Latino or European would prefer solitude to feel secure, and believes himself to be above everything [like nature, which he tries to “tame” or dominate] and everybody [rivals or competitors for “his turf”]).

Distribution of revolutionary films is problematic because of persecution and censure in the home country or lack of distribution or marketability in the First World.  But that should not make one censor oneself  to become opportunistic.  Revolutionary films fare better in Europe, where they are shown in film festivals, specialized movie theaters, or some television networks.  The viewers of these films are either: 1) the passive consumer (the culture vulture) or 2) the informed critical viewer who seeks information to form new ideas and concepts.  In the US, revolutionary films are distributed and shown in universities or progressive organizations (e.g., some churches) to shed light on the problems of Latin-Americans and the real workings of the System (capitalism), which produces exploitation,  dehumanization, and racism.  That notwithstanding (European and US markets), Latin American revolutionary filmmakers are more interested in getting their films distributed and shown in brother countries (other Latin-American nations), although this is a difficult task (because of censure or persecution).  It is in Latin-America where the need to show these films is greater.  For instance, Blood of the Condor, which was viewed by many people in Bolivia, was effective in ousting the Peace Corps from Bolivia (the Peace Corps were sterilizing peasant women to solve the overpopulation problem of the world, unaware, of course, that peasant families need to have many children to cultivate the land [overpopulation is an urban First World problem, not a rural Third World issue]).  But people saw this film because of portable equipment brought to the Indians, which then enabled them to discuss the issue at hand.  The theater, of course, is a static and privileged space.

Julio García Espinosa.  “For an Imperfect Cinema.” 71-82.

Technically perfect and artistically masterful (First) cinema is reactionary (exploitative, commercial) cinema.  It is also “impartial” and “uncommitted.”  In other words, it is elitist (“artistic”) art.  It is art produced by a minority (those with the expensive equipment) for the masses (for their entertainment).  But yet, science and technology have made expensive film equipment available to the people.  Also, art is a universal necessity, not the province of the few.  Everybody should be able to create popular art, especially when now there are more spectators than ever.  Film is a democratic medium (unlike the theater or the opera, which are more specialized and expensive [unlike a documentary, for instance, which practically anyone with a camera can do]).  Film is (or should be) also a participatory and collective (democratic) art form.  It should be “partisan” and “committed” as well as “imperfect.”  This kind of film is not interested in neurosis but in lucidity.  Lucid themes and audiences are able to impress an ideology by which they can change society for the better (solve problems instead of dwelling on them, as a neurotic or passive spectator would).  A greater audience exists for this kind of cinema today.  Imperfect cinema should show the process which generates problems in society.  It does not celebrate results (like First Cinema) or “beautifully illustrates” ideas and concepts which one already has.  To show the process of a problem is to submit it to judgment without pronouncing the verdict.  Imperfect cinema can use documentaries or fictions, or whatever genre it wishes.  Imperfect cinema rejects exhibitionism, the narcissistic, the commercial.  It is not interested in quality or technique, or in “good taste.” Also, the revolutionary filmmaker should not have personal self-realization as his object.  The future lies with folk art.  But folk art should not be displayed with demagogic pride or with a celebratory air, but as a cruel denunciation and painful testimony to the level at which the peoples of the world have been forced to limit their artistic creativity (Lauer’s note: Remember Buñuel’s Las Hurdes?).

Julio García Espinosa.  “Meditations on Imperfect Cinema . . . Fifteen Years Later.” 83-85.

Imperfect cinema is meant to pose the denunciation of a reality disguised by aesthetics and which finally speaks to our exposed innards.  Spectacle films are aesthetically pleasing (too pretty) and should not be done.  Imperfect art is ethical, not merely aesthetic.  Therein lies its “quality” and aesthetic beauty (if it explains something we ought to know fully so as for us to do something about it to change the world).

Fernando Birri.  “Cinema and Underdevelopment.” 86-94.

What kind of cinema do the underdeveloped peoples of Latin America need?  A cinema that brings them consciousness, which clarifies matters, which disturbs, worries, shocks, and weakens those who have a bad conscience; a cinema which is anti-oligarchic, anti-bourgeois, anti-imperialist, as well as pro-people and that helps the passage from underdevelopment to development. 

What kind of cinema does Argentina have now?  One with a solid industrial tradition whose Golden Age was in the 1930s and 1940s (before Gen. Juan Domingo Perón); one which, during the Perón years, prostituted itself; and one which evolved into an independent movement.  This last “cinema of expression” is set in opposition to “commercial” cinema.  This cinema of expression is the product of the Institute of Cinematography at the National University of the Litoral.

The Institute of Cinematography’s goal was realism.  This kind of cinema aspires to be both popular and high quality art: “realist, critical, and popular.” 

What are the future perspectives for Latin American Cinema?  Exhibition and distribution.  National (Argentine) films are systematically boycotted by both national and international distributors and exhibitors who are linked to anti-national (“colonial”) interests and foreign (US) markets.  In 1962, of about 500 films shown in Argentina, 300 were in English (mostly from the US), while only 30 were Argentine.  That in spite of the fact that Latin-America has a potential market of 200 million spectators.  Only through government action will the Argentine film industry survive.  Commercial circuits must be obliged to carry Argentine films.  Independent circuits must also be established.

Argentine films should be geared for working-class audiences, the petty bourgeoisie, and even the bourgeoisie proper. 

The cause of underdevelopment is well known: colonialism (external and internal).  One must create social documentaries that are realistic, critical, and popular.  Realistic film should pose problems and re-affirm peoples’ values.  Cinema that does not do this is an accomplice of colonialism and should be considered sub-cinema.

Fernando Birri.  “For a nationalist, Realist, Critical and Popular Cinema.” 95-98.

The new Latin-American cinema was born in Cuba in the 1950s (after the Cuban Revolution), in Brazil with Cinema Novo, and in Argentina with the Documentary Film School of Santa Fe.  There are three major Latin-American cinemas: the Mexican, the Brazilian, and the Argentine cinemas.  This new cinema is national, realist, critical, and popular (that is, it interprets, expresses, and communicates with the people).  This is an active cinema for an active spectator (one who does not consume passively as if merely digesting celluloid).  It’s a cinema of economic, political, cultural, and “imaginative” liberation.

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.  “The Viewer’s Dialectic.” 108-31.

If filmmakers want to express their World coherently, they should not go armed only with a camera and their sensibility but also with solid theoretical judgment.  Film not only entertains and informs; it also shapes taste, intellectual judgment, and states of consciousness.  Film (in Cuba) should enlighten spectators’ consciousness, arm them against reactionary (neo-colonial, capitalist) tendencies, and contribute to their enjoyment of life. 

Cinema is marked by its class origin.  It is petty bourgeois in spirit.  It developed as a show-business industry and began to mass produce a kind of merchandise that duplicated bourgeois values.  However, cinema since its beginning has developed along two parallel paths: 1) the “true” documentation of reality and b) fictitious fascinating magic (phantasms).  Cinema is also a costly industry that has had to invent many formulas to please the broadest public and survive financially.  Among the (Hollywood) genres one finds comedies, westerns, gangster films, historical super-productions, and melodramas.  This kind of cinema makes spectators into passive consumers who view these films as a substitute for reality, thus preventing them from developing humanly. 

Second cinema (the European avant-garde) explored a vast range of expressive possibilities but could not put down roots (since it was not popular but elitist cinema).

Only Soviet art created a new (collective) art form destined for the masses.  This cinema dealt with important contemporary themes (as well as US cinema from the 30s), and social conflicts.  After WWII, Neo-realism emerged in Italy (authentic popular cinema).  In France, New Wave auteurs (like Jean-Luc Godard) were able to create anti-bourgoeis cinema, but not people’s cinema.  Third Cinema, of course, is revolutionary political cinema geared to mobilize the masses to action (unfortunately, even in socialist nations, First Cinema is more appealing). 

Jean-Luc Godard
Popular cinema should aim to transform reality and better humankind.  To be fully developed, it must coincide with the (same) interests of the state: hence, it can only exist under socialism. 

Art’s social function is to contribute to the enjoyment of life.  It should also reaffirm the new society’s values and fight for its preservation and development. 

Newsreels, shorts, and feature-length films:

  • Newsreels capture certain aspects of reality and may serve as a testimony to an epoch.  The aesthetic component is subordinate.
  • The short can be primarily informative and may include fictional works.  It provides both information and analysis within 30-40 minutes.  The aesthetic component takes on a certain significance.
  • The feature film is usually fiction.  The plots are fabricated according to preconceived ideas and developed on the basis of dramatic principles.  The aesthetic principle is important here to enable the (revolutionary) message to go down easily.  It is aesthetically pleasing, raises the people’s cultural level, and has a social (didactic) content.  It must also have spiritual (uplifting [civic?]) values.  Films must appeal not only to emotion (1st cinema) but also to reason and intellect (3rd cinema).  It must also move people to (social) action (and not be merely passive or escapist entertainment, as 1st cinema would be).  Therein lies its “enjoyment,” its ethics, its aesthetics.  Also, the spectator must not get lost in the film but come back to reality with enriched (filmic) experiences.  Spectators should not return to reality complacent (because of a “happy ending”) but stimulated and armed for practical action.  The “unfinished” character of Third Cinema enables one to “finish” or resolve a situation in real life (outside the theater).  This kind of cinema or show is not a pacifier (an opiate, as Marx would have said). 

Ana M. López.  “An ‘Other’ History: The New Latin American Cinema.” 135-156.

The cinema as a national necessity has never been the concern of Hollywood.  But in Latin America, the importance of nationality in the cinema has been a hotly debated issue since the birth of the cinema.  The cinema was seen early on as a site for the utopian assertion of a collective unity identified as the nation.

The Juan Perón Cinema Law of 1957 (Decreto Ley 62-57), in force until 1973, provided as much as 50% of the production costs of national productions, allowed directors to be their own producers, and stimulated a series of independent productions that reintroduced national characters.

"Nueva Ola" [New Wave] auteurs did not create commercial successes.  Their films were too elitist and experimental.  But at the Instituto Cinematográfico and the Documentary Film School of the Universidad del Litoral in the province of Santa Fe, a new cinema was being created.  It was realistic and popular, with social commitments and aspirations.

Important influences on Latin America cinema were: Italian Neo-Realism, Cuban Cinema, Soviet Cinema, and French New Wave.

Julianne Burton.  “Film Artisans and Film Industries in Latin America, 1956-1980: Theoretical and Critical Implications of Variations in Modes of Filmic Production and Consumption.” 157-84.

At the New Latin American Cinema festival in Mérida, Venezuela, in 1968, it was declared that the new Latin-American cinema should be one of realism (not escapism or illusionism), simple testimony, profound analysis, and revolutionary spirit.  In other words, it should serve as an agitational tool.  It would differ from First Cinema (commercial Hollywood-style film) and Second Cinema (auterist European film).  This Third Cinema would emphasize themes instead of characters; operative groups instead of an auteur; information instead of neo-colonial misinformation; truth instead of escapism; aggression instead of passivity; guerrilla cinema instead of institutionalized (studio) cinema; a film-act (action) instead of spectacle; construction instead of destruction; democratic (popular) principles instead of bourgeois (elite). 

However, even as “imperfect” cinema, this cinema should not lose its ability to entertain.  Argentina’s clandestine Cine de la Base, for instance, created not only documentaries but also fictions and narrative cinema because it offered a greater potential for synthesis and subjective, personalized analysis (unlike a documentary).

Bertolt Brecht

Militant Latin-American filmmakers took German playwright Bertolt Brecht as a model in using film as a vehicle of apprehending the real world in order to change it.  After all, reality is the first recourse of any oppressed group wishing to combat the ideology promulgated by the media in the interests of hegemonic power.  Once an oppressed group becomes aware of his chains, it replaces deceptions with truth.

Roland Barthes

Militant Latin-American filmmakers would necessarily be against post-structuralist French critic Roland Barthes and his doctrine of the infinite polysemousness (meanings) of a text (reality).  Only those fully secure in the status quo can permit themselves the luxury of such an illusion (for reality may be multiform only if there is a surplus of it; not when there is a scarcity of resources [in which case, reality is pretty much one thing]).

Capitalist society sees film as a culture industry whose potentially subversive themes (products) are co-opted and neutralized (depoliticized).  But militant Latin-American filmmakers see in film a quest for national identity. The film critic must be aware of this “attitude” towards cinema in order to contextualize (historicize) the cultural practice of a (Latin-American) filmmaker.  Material conditions determine consciousness (Marx), not the other way around (e.g., consciousness [ideology] cannot precede materiality [i.e., an egg cannot be produced without a chicken]).

On Karl Marx’s Concept of Modes of Production (in Capitalism):

Karl Marx

According to economist philosopher Karl Marx (in Kapital and Gründrisse), production not only supplies a material for the need but it also supplies a need for the material.  In a similar vein, the object of art (a product like any other) creates a public which is sensitive to art and enjoys beauty.  Production thus not only creates an object (art) for the subject (viewer), but also a subject (viewer) for the object (art).  Hence, production produces consumption by creating the material for it, by determining the manner of consumption, and by creating products (objects) in the form of needs felt by the consumer. 

Translated to film terms, power lies in the control over exchange and distribution (the “relations of production” in Marxist terminology), not necessarily (entirely) in the means of production.  A militant Latin-American filmmaker can make (produce) a film, but if the distributor controls the market exchange (the “relations of production”), the film does not necessarily reach any market.  The same applies to the exhibitor, who controls what products to show.

When film began (in the late 19th century), the artist (filmmaker) retained control over all aspects of the creative process.  His relation to the product (the film) was similar to that of a feudal artisan (non-alienated, since he controlled all aspects of the product [means and relations of production]).  Technological advances reinforced an increasing division of labor (alienation from the creative process by specialization).

Sergei Eisenstein

The film medium has a dual function.  It can serve as a vehicle for cultural and political re-enfranchisement (Eisenstein, Soviet or Cuban film) or to narcotize a people (by illusionist images).  Technology can transform the art object as well as the viewers’ attitudes and forms of perception, encouraging passive, “distracted” viewing rather than a more active involvement.

Herbert Marcuse

The members of the Frankfurt School (German Marxist philosophers) have maintained that science and technology are subsumed under and transformed by capitalism.  Art, however, is the sector most resistant to this process.  Why?  Because relies on the imagination (not on capital).  And the imagination, as Herbert Marcuse (Frankfurt School founder) envisions the reconciliation of the individual with the whole, of desire with realization, of happiness with reason.  Art opposes to institutionalized repression the image of man as a free subject (before the division of labor, which alienated him).  Art, hence, is opposition (Marcuse).  Cinema can help to de-alienate humankind by anticipating future class needs.

Michael Chanan.  “The Economic Condition of Cinema in Latin America.” 185-200.

On Cultural Imperialism:

Before flooding the international market with the products of the transnational entertainment corporations, the colonization of literary taste must take place (e.g., it is necessary to create the need before the demand).  In 1967, Joseph Klapper of CBS told the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs that the broadcasting of popular music, even if it does not produce an immediate political result, provides an entryway of Western ideas and concepts.  In Latin America, this process started with the conquistadores.  It also takes the guise of myths (stories). 

In addition, Cuban and other Latin American nations served US industries as testing grounds of new technologies and techniques in the fields of media and communication.  In addition, in Cuba, before the Castro Revolution, the US controlled 90% of the public utilities (telephone, cables, electricity).  The US controlled the culture industries indirectly and without being involved in local production.  For the US companies in Cuba during the Batista regime (prior to Castro) ran their business like local branches.  When confronted with “nationalist” groups, the foreign industries respond by operating an embargo on supplies in order to destabilize the pre-revolutionary groups or, if a revolution has been successful, to destabilize the new government in place.  Hence, any nationalist (local) group would necessarily threaten any foreign company. 

The spread of cinema in Latin America was largely due to the intensity of foreign exploitation accomplished through intermediaries.  It was not necessary for the dominating country to actually own the theaters; it was enough to dominate the mentality of the economically dependent creole capitalists

Film, according to the 1930 Frankfurt School of sociologists, was seen as a new invention of the culture industry.  This industry is characteristically imperialistic, dominated by US interests, and closely linked with the electrical industry.  Also, distribution concentrated on a small number of companies, principally US subsidiaries.  A key moment in early cinema history took place when the dealers shifted from selling films to exhibitors to renting them instead.  The control of distribution was the dominant position of the industry.  Hence, the distributor buys the prints of one of more films from one or more producers and rents them to numerous exhibitors; in the process he is able to extract a sum considerably greater than his costs.  The balance of power thus shifts to the distributor.  But the purpose of exhibitors is not to provide a film for an audience but to provide an audience for a film.  Hence, there is a profitable capitalist alliance between exhibitor, distributor, and producer in the culture industry of film.

Another interest aspect of the culture industry of film is that the consumer consumes the object in situ in a sort of symbolic exchange (there is no actual physical exchange of objects; all one [the consumer] gets is an “impression”).  The consumer consuming a film in a theater pays money for only a mental impression.  Likewise, the exhibitor is not even required to purchase the film providing the mental impression.  All s/he needs to do is rent it and make money on this exchange of money for image.  Likewise, the director’s actual cost for making additional prints of a film for distribution is very little (all you need is celluloid and a reel). Hence, you can “sell” the product abroad without depriving the home market from it (everybody can have the film).  The distributor also makes a profit by the rental process of  “block booking” or “blind booking,” which force exhibitors to take pictures they do not want or that sometimes they have not seen in order to get the ones desired. 

In the 1920s, European countries progressively erected legal barriers to protect their own film industries.  In Latin America, the lack of an infrastructure made it easier to control all aspects of the market (including control of public utilities like electricity).  When those “dependent” nations tried to develop or protect their local industries, the foreign (US) companies responded with embargoes or by a distribution system which would exclude or resist the development of any (national) film production.  After all, if the dependent nations start developing their own products, the business company that provides services would no longer be able to sell its products abroad and hence it would lose profits.  In 1926, the Harvard Business School proposed also to “draw” the best talent (directors, actors, technicians) from the international market and use them in the host (US) nation “in our own way” and then send the (US) products back to the the countries where those actors or directors are famous.  [Lauer’s note: think of Maurice Chevalier, Ricardo Montalbán, Charo, etc.].  This creates a surplus profit.   This surplus profit (for the company is already making a profit in its home base) can enable a company to sell the same product abroad at a lesser cost to the distributor, thus undercutting other (European or Latin American) competitors.  It’s like selling merchandise not sold immediately at a bargain price.  One can still make a profit with it.

Latin Imports:

Maurice Chevalier

The quintessential Frenchman (in the US)
"The greatest thing to come from France 
since Lafayette" -Al Jolson

Ricardo Montalbán

The Spanish, then Mexican actor 
who, in the US, became the prototype 
of the "Latin Lover" in the 1940s & 1950s. 
He also advertised the Chrysler Cordoba car.

Guillermo del Toro

Mexican filmmaker 
(Cronos, El espinazo del diablo),
director in the US of
Blade II, Hellboy)

It is curious to note that Hollywood made Spanish-language versions of the same films done for English-speaking audiences only before they were able to dub the films into any other language.  After that technology was devised in the mid 1930s, Spanish-language films in Hollywood no longer were made.  Dubbing in effect provided global dominance of US films, making the development of any local film industry difficult.  (Lauer’s note:  It’s like voting for Kerry to get Bush light; why not vote for Bush and get the real thing? [the solution to this dilemma, of course, is to get a different candidate, like Nader, or, in the case of film, create a different kind of cinema, like Cinema Novo, Italian Neo-realism, French New Wave, etc.).

In Latin America, only Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil are big enough to be able to have (create?) a home market for a local film industry to emerge.  On account of infrastructure problems, the state has had to intervene to enable the film industry to prosper by means of subsidies.  In the case of Brazil, Embrafilme was set up by a military regime that came to power in 1964 and wanted to promote a positive imagine of Brazil abroad.  In Venezuela and Chile (under the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende), the state provided direct subsidies to directors instead of producers.  In Mexico, the state helps the film industry through IMICINE and CONACULTA, which have been set apart from the former Ministry of the Interior.  Morever, Mexico has excellent co-production strategies with several nations.  In Cuba, the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográfica) is under the control of the state, which has taken over all aspects of the film industry (production, distribution, and exhibition).  The latter is self-sufficient.

Michael Chanan.  “Rediscovering Documentary. Cultural Context and Intentionality.” 201-217.

For more than 25 years, a new cinema has been developing in Latin America, carving out spaces for itself even under the most inimical circumstances, a cinema devoted to the denunciation of misery and the celebration of protest.  Among these films were several eye-opening documentaries like Santiago Álvarez’s Cuban film, Now (1965) [a six minute film of social protest] and LBJ (1968), which had a sense of urgency, were satirical, and reinvented the concept of agit-prop.  New Latin-American documentaries, especially those from Cuba, held a special position.  In Europe, this new style was called cinema verité.  In the US, direct cinema

The new documentaries were didactic and social instead of poetic and individualistic.  There was an emphasis on realism. The ICAIC, or Cuban Film Institute, shot its documentaries in 35 mm.  They had 4 categories: 1) documentales de divulgación (popularizing documentaries), 2) scientific subjects for popular consumption, 3) newsreels, and 4) cartoons. 

Although propaganda and didacticism are usually considered incompatible, they do not have to be seen that way.  Revolutionary propaganda is the creative use of demonstration and example to teach revolutionary principles, and of dialectical argument to mobilize intelligence toward self-liberation.  It seeks an active, not a passive response from the spectator.  It is a means of conscientization (concientización, in Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s term) or critical realism used to combat the culture of silence (the condition of ignorance or political powerlessness).

Educators and Demystifiers:

Paulo Freire
(Brazil: 1921-1997)

Frantz Fanon
(Martinique: 1925-1961)

Cine testimonio (testimonial cinema) is another central category for film at the service of social groups which lack access to the means of mass communication in order to make their point of view public.  The film collaborates in the concientización of the group concerned.  The process of shooting becomes one of investigation and discovery, which reaches its final and highest stage in the editing. 

Cine didáctico is film that, in Cuba, deals with scientific and technical subjects.  It teaches the value of communication for the sake of instruction.  In didactic cinema, the artist and the pedagogue meet.

Capitalist cinema uses snares or stimuli (sex, desire for power, fear of inferiority) to create more demand for it or stimulate the consumer’s interest.

Paul Willemen.  “The Third Cinema Question. Notes and Reflections.” 221-251.

In 1986, for its 40th anniversary, the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) hosted a three-day conference organized by Jim Pines, June Givanni, and Paul Willemen, addressing the idea of a Third Cinema and its relevance to contemporary film culture.  It was determined that Third Cinema (from the 1970s) had reanimated the petrified body of English cultural criticism.  Questions of gender and of cultural identity received new inflections.  The militant black cultural (Frantz Fanon, born in Martinique: 1925-1961) practitioners were on the cutting edge of cultural politics and innovation, discovering relationships between the cultural and the social.  Third Cinema fused a number of European, Soviet, and Latin American ideas about cultural practice into a new program for the political practice of cinema.  It also foreshadowed policies advocated by the Chinese Cultural Revolution and had resonance in Africa and Palestine, where the new practices proposed by Third Cinema were became part of “alternative or new cinema.”

This Third Cinema opposed the emotional manipulation and the smothering of thought of capitalist commercial First Cinema, as well as the nihilistic and mystificatory elements of Second Cinema.  It encouraged a cinema of lucidity and promoted a critical understanding of social dynamics. It emphasized the need to learn.  No aesthetics was prescribed.  Its aim was to engage in the social and move towards socialism.  It also emphasized national cultures.

It is, of course, possible, to view First Cinema in a Third Cinema way.  In Europe, most Third Cinema films have been viewed as Second Cinema. 

It might be possible to associate First Cinema with the middle class (the businessman, the capitalist); Second Cinema with the petit bourgeoisie (the lower middle class, the shopkeeper); and Third Cinema as proletariat (industrial workers who sell their labor to live) and socialist.  However, some problems with these categories are that they exclude other classes (the aristocracy) and other interests (ethnic and gender divisions).

Third Cinema is national, even regional.  Nationalism was a Western invention associated with imperialism.  However, nationalism in Latin America means to try to reconnect with autochthonous traditions that were displaced by the imperialist power.  But these traditions or cultural practices must be selected appropriately so as not to fall into nostalgia for something that perhaps never existed.  One does not necessarily “recover” (uncritically) a national identity.  One “creates” a (new) national identity.

Cineaste (Pamphlet No. 1).  “Resolutions of the Third World Filmmakers Meeting. Algiers, Dec. 5-14 (1973).”  252-262.

The Third World filmmakers meeting took place in Algiers on 5-14 December 1973.  Certain resolutions were passed:

  • Committee 1: Peoples’ Cinema:  At a certain point in time, capitalism extended itself beyond the framework of the national European boundaries and spread to other regions of the world in search of resources, cheap manpower, and potential markets.  This is a historic necessity of capitalism.  Once in a host (colonized) nation, capitalism creates zones of artificial prosperity and zones of attraction.  Subsequently, it seeks to legitimize itself by a systematic enterprise of deculturation and acculturation.  The peoples of the host nations are depersonalized and their culture discredited by presenting it as inferior and inoperative.  New moral values are introduced, different life and thought patterns, an alternative explanation of history, and, in short, a new culture that displaces the national culture of the hosts nation(s).  Eventually, the language of the colonized, which is the carrier of culture, becomes inferior or foreign, used only in family circles.  It is no longer a vehicle for education, culture, and science because in the schools the language of the colonizer is taught, it being indispensable to know it in order to work, to subsist, and to assert oneself.  The colonized, hence, becomes alienated from his own culture.  The social sciences (sociology, archaeology, ethnology) serve the purposes of the colonizer by declaring the host culture obsolete, inferior, not “up to par.”  Thusly, imperialist economic, political, and social domination takes root in an ideological system articulated mainly through cinema, which is in a position to influence the popular masses by training the mind.  The Role of Cinema: Movies must reflect the objective conditions of the people.  The people should have control of all cultural activities, nationalize cinema, and control production, distribution, and commercialization.  Foreign and reactionary films that monopolies impose on the people should be eliminated.
  • Committee 2: Production/Co-production:  The role of cinema in the Third World is to promote culture.  Cinema is part of the class struggle.  There should be no co-productions with imperialist countries, for fear that the imperialist country should shed its (negative) influence and exploit the colonized countries culturally and economically.  Co-productions should be established with independent, revolutionary filmmakers. 
  • Committee 3: Distribution: Foster international festivals in Third World nations.  Approach Arab League nations and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). 

Antonio Skármeta.  “Europe. An Indispensable Link in the Production and Circulation of Latin American Cinema.”  263-269.

Chilean directors gained access to a proper film industry on account of the exile after the 1973 coup that ousted socialist president Salvador Allende.  These exiled directors have depended totally on foreign financing for their films.  The institutions that have helped have been the Film Board of Canada, British television’s Channel Four, and Das Kleine Fernsehspiel in Germany.  They commission films from Chilean directors and without any aid from Chilean capital and later show these products in television.  After the Pinochet coup, all filming activity was suspended.  However, by 1988 (when this article was written), the Chilean government has become more tolerant of culture since almost all artists and intellectuals are part of the opposition.  The painful reality of Chilean film is that it lacks a national (Chilean) public and distributors.  During the military directory of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), the people became accustomed to television and a “healthy entertainment.” Quality films (political or thinking films) are seen only by students or cinema addicts.  Even in Europe, Latin American films are seen only in cinema clubs or cultural television channels.  But in spite of everything, South America needs Europe to survive.  Latin American cinema shows a different mentality, a different political tone, different morals and fantasies.  A distribution network of South American cinema on a pan-European level could be the first major step.

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte
(Chile: 1915- )

B. Ruby Rich.  “An/Other View of New Latin American Cinema.”  273-297.

The turning point in Latin American with respect to its national cinema came in the 1950s, immediately after the end of World War II.  The greatest influences from Europe were Luis Buñuel, who moved from Spain to Mexico and brought with him his expertise, and Neo-realism, from Italy.  The Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Center for Experimental Cinematography) at the University of Rome trained during 1950-1955 cineastes like Cuban Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Argentine Fernando Birri (who later founded the Film School of Santa Fe in Argentina), Cuban Julio García Espinosa, and Colombian Gabriel García Márquez (later named head of the FNCL [Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano] or New Latin American Cinema Foundation in Cuba).  In Brazil, director Alberto Cavalcanti  influenced Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos.  The nationalistic government of Getúlio Vargas in Brazil (1937-45 and 1951-54) promoted film.  In due time, Embrafilme, established in 1969, would promote the film industry.  In Cuba, after the successful coup of Fidel Castro against the Fulgencio Batista regime in 1959, the ICAIC (Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos) or Cuban Film Institute was founded to promote all aspects of film there (production, distribution, and exhibition).  The new Latin American cinema was called an “imperfect cinema” in Cuba, Cinema Novo or an aesthetics of hunger (or violence) in Brazil, and Third Cinema in Argentina.  In Mexico, the film industry would receive an additional input after the 1942 US embargo against Argentina for its neutrality in WWII, an act that would divert US capital away from Argentina and into Mexico. 

In the 1980s, Latin American cinema moved away from exteriority to interiority.  These new films advanced a reclaiming of the individual in a collective milieu, thus creating a “collective subjectivity.”  What is valued now is the interior world of persons.  Hence there was a shift from the “revolutionary” spirit of the 1950s-1970s to the “revelatory” aspects of the “collective subjectivity” in the 1980s and beyond.  The telling of secrets is an important theme in recent works of the New Latin American Cinema.  The act of revealing secrets can be liberating if action ensues or if secrets are examined and not just buried again.  Also, emotional life is seen as a site of struggle and identity.  The personal becomes political.  Private life and the emotions demand as much commitment, engagement, and action as (exterior) events did earlier.  The sexual can become the center of political life.  Genres like the melodrama and the soap opera are reclaimed.  The telling of secrets, the breaking of prohibitions, the speaking of the unspeakable, the freeing of the imagination to fantasy, the respect of the mundane and everyday, the introduction of humor and music, the construction of new narrative strategies, the reconsideration of the relationship to the audience, all these become liberating personal (and political) acts in this new age of collective subjectivity. The New Latin American Cinema (Cinema Novo, Third Cinema, Imperfect Cinema) is dead; long live the New Latin American Cinema (the cinema of collective subjectivity).

Zuzana M. Pick.  “The New Latin American Cinema.  A Modernist Critique of Modernity.”  298-311.

In Latin America, debates about national (or continental) identity have revolved around the values defined either as authentic or derivative.  Through the conscious rupture with traditional cinemas, the New Latin American Cinema launched a project of cinematographic renewal that was defined from the outset as revolutionary and anti-imperialist.  Through this agenda the movement asserted the creation of new expressive spaces and the rejection of traditional genres.  In the 1960s, films stressed class struggle as the only possible way out of social injustice.  However, by the 1980s, filmmakers started to address issues of gender and ethnicity, as well as ahistorical presumptions and romantic celebrations of cultural difference.  These movies started to privilege the subjective and collective identities.  Latin American film, hence, became more modern.  But this modernity implies a critique and a renewal which is as yet unfinished.  It’s a process.


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A. Robert Lauer