Global Cold War tensions increased as political turmoil turned to violent conflict in developing Third World nations. Responding to all of this, cinema became politicized on a scale not seen since World War II. The Third World was at the forefront of revolutionary cinema as filmmakers in those countries treated cinema as a tool of social change and a weapon of political liberation. This use of film as a social and political force emerged first in Latin America and spread to Africa and China, while also emerging in the First World countries including the U.S.S.R. and United States. The counterculture and the New Left were examples of an international politics of youth that focused on ...view middle of the document...
S. ﬁlms Union Maids (1976) and With Babies and Banners (1978) by the Women’s Labor History Project. Women’s ﬁlmmaking groups emerged in other countries as well, with France’s Musidora, Italy’s Feminist Film Collective, and Australia’s Sydney Women’s Film Collective being among the most active.
Techniques employed by engaged cinema filmmakers included many of the techniques established by Direct Cinema documentary, such as spontaneously shot reportage, staged interviews and “talking heads”, street footage of demonstrations, and “radical scavenging” of mainstream news-footage, which was pioneered by Emile De Antonio. The innovations of postwar modernist ﬁlmmaking were melded with the new radical-left orientation to create a political modernism that made commercial cinema experimental to a degree comparable to the avant-garde movements of the 1920s.
Please view the film Union Maids to see an example of this technique.
By the mid-1970s, many revolutions had failed—as in Latin America—or had revealed a repressive side, like in Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. Filmmakers began to imagine a “micropolitics” that would promote social change at a grassroots level within institutions. The extreme tendencies of political modernism waned in commercial 35mm productions; ﬁlmmakers developed less challenging approaches to storytelling and style. Even the Third World, home of the most militant alternative cinemas, began to produce ﬁlms for an international audience and to work in widely accessible forms. Political modernism hung on somewhat longer in the avant-garde sector, but, by the end of the 1980s, 16mm and super-8mm ﬁlmmakers had largely returned to variants of “purer” modernism or had embraced “postmodern” modes of experimentation.
As the 1970s waned, Direct Cinema continued, but in a more subdued form that merged with more traditional methods. Experimental film turned inward as a more reflexive and form-centered movement known as Structural Film emerged. In addition to—or, more precisely, in opposition to—Structuralism, other new experimental tendencies manifested themselves in the 1970s and 1980s. Some ﬁlmmakers revisited narrative. Others turned experimental techniques toward political criticism or theoretical debate. Still others embraced a harsh and passionate personal expression. Structural Film, especially in North America, had been dominated by men, but the reactions to the Structural movement were led by women. This tendency paralleled the growth of feminist documentary and feature ﬁlmmaking during the 1970s. During the next decade, minority women also played an increasing part in the changes in experimental cinema in the United States and Great Britain.
Defining Third World Revolutionary Cinema
Three essays set the agenda for Third World political filmmaking: Rocha's "Aesthetics of Hunger" (1965), Espinosa's "For an Imperfect Cinema" (1969), and Solanas and Getino's "Third Cinema" manifesto (1969). The authors all...