… Third Cinema is most emphatically not simply concerned with ‘letting the oppressed speak with their own voices’ …
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First cinema expresses imperialist, capitalist, bourgeois ideas. Big monopoly capital finances big spectacle cinema as well as authorial and informational cinema. Any cinematographic expression … likely to respond to the aspirations of big capital, I call first cinema. Our definition of second cinema is all that expresses the aspirations of the middle stratum, the petit bourgeoisie …
Second cinema is often nihilistic, mystificatory. It runs in circles. It is cut off from reality. In the second cinema, just as in the first cinema, you can find documentaries, political and militant cinema. So-called author cinema often belongs in the second cinema, but both good and bad authors may be found in the first and in the third cinemas as well. For us, third cinema is the expression of a new culture and of social changes. Generally speaking, Third Cinema gives an account of reality and history. It is also linked with national culture …
[line break added] It is the way the world is conceptualized and not the genre nor the explicitly political character of a film which makes it belong to Third Cinema … Third Cinema is an open category, unfinished, incomplete. It is a research category. It is a democratic, national, popular cinema. Third Cinema is also an experimental cinema, but it is not practised in the solitude of one’s home or in a laboratory because it conducts research into communication. What is required is to make that Third Cinema gain space, everywhere, in all its forms … But it must be stressed that there are 36 different kinds of Third Cinema. [Fernando Solanas, 1979]
… two characteristics must be singled out as especially useful and of lasting value. One is the insistence on its flexibility, its status as research and experimentation, a cinema forever in need of adaptation to the shifting dynamics at work in social struggles. Because it is part of constantly changing social processes, that cinema cannot but change with them, making an all-encompassing definition impossible and even undesirable.
[line break added] The second useful aspect follows from this fundamental flexibility: the only stable thing about Third Cinema is its attempt to speak a socially pertinent discourse which both the mainstream and the authorial cinemas exclude from their regimes of signification. Third Cinema seeks to articulate a different set of aspirations out of the raw materials provided by the culture, its traditions, art forms, etc. the complex interactions and condensations of which shape the ‘national’ cultural space inhabited by the filmmakers as well as their audiences.
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The unity of a particular culture is an open unity [in which] lie immense semantic possibilities that have remained undisclosed, unrecognized, and unutilized. [Mikhail Bakhtin]
… The silence of the oppressed may be an active form of resistance, a refusal. It may also be the result of a socially induced incapacity to activate certain registers of meaning, the exercise of social power having succeeded in blocking access to a number of semantic possibilities. It is important to stress this particular effect of power, since it is often overlooked by people who study the way consumers use products of the cultural industries: questions of pleasure are often emphasized at the expense of an examination of the stunting and restrictive effects of dominant discursive regimes which constantly repeat the ruling out of certain types of making sense.
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In our enthusiasm for specification we have ignored questions of the interconnection and interdependence of various areas of culture; we have frequently forgotten that the boundaries of these areas are not absolute, that in various epochs they have been drawn in various ways; and we have not taken into account that the most intense and productive life of culture takes place on the boundaries of its individual areas and not in places where these areas have become enclosed in their own specificity. [Mikhail Bakhtin]
… their pursuit of the creative understanding of particular social realities takes the form of a critical dialog — hence the need for both lucidity and close contact with popular discourses and aspirations — with a people itself engaged in bringing about social change. Theirs is not an audience in the Hollywood or in the televisual sense, where popularity is equated with consumer satisfaction and where pleasure is measured in terms of units of the local currency entered on the balance sheet. Theirs, like Brecht’s, is a fighting notion of popularity, as is clear from Solanis’ insistence on Third Cinema being an experimental cinema engaged in a constant process of research.
… Third Cinema is most emphatically not simply concerned with ‘letting the oppressed speak with their own voices’ : that would be a one-sided and therefore an untrustworthy position. Those voices will only speak the experience of oppression, including the debilitating aspects of that condition. Third Cinema does not seek to induce guilt in or to solicit sympathy from its interlocutors. Instead, it addresses the issue of social power from a a critical-but-committed position, articulating the joining of ‘the intelligence, the emotions, the powers of intuition,’ as Espinosa put it …