If you’re looking for a short, snappy definition of Third Cinema, it’s this:

Third Cinema is political cinema.

That’s how the idea was first expressed in 1969 by two Argentinean filmmakers and activists, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino.

But it’s not quite as simple as that.

In their manifesto, Towards a Third Cinema, the pair defined Third Cinema as “a cinema of liberation” that stands in opposition to the values of the first and second cinemas.

The first cinema, they wrote, is “the dominant commercial cinema”; the second is “the avant-garde and experimental cinema which has been born as an alternative to the dominant one.”

So what exactly is this elusive third concept? Let’s take a look.

What Is Third Cinema

What Is Third Cinema?

Third Cinema is a term first used in the late 1960s by Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino in their manifesto “Towards a Third Cinema.”

The concept of Third Cinema refers to films and filmmakers who, through their rejection of Hollywood cinema and its conventions, attempt to create an alternative film practice.

Third Cinema rejects mainstream Hollywood films – or First Cinema – which they see as in service to American popular culture, capitalism, and imperialism.

It also rejects European art films – or Second Cinema – which it sees as the work of an elite that is distanced from reality.

In the context of Latin America, the concept of Third Cinema does not refer only to film but also encompasses other aesthetic forms (such as theatre) and political movements (such as guerrilla movements).

It was developed alongside the concept of “National-Popular Culture” which sought to connect cultural production with political struggle.



What Is Third Cinema?

Third Cinema is a concept that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s to address the role of cinema in developing countries.

Rather than participating in what they called the “First World” of commercial filmmaking or the “Second World” of state-financed propaganda, filmmakers from Africa, Latin America, and other parts of Asia argued for a “Third World” of revolutionary artistic practice.

Third Cinema was particularly associated with filmmakers in Latin America, who used film to both document realities of social and political injustice and participate in struggles for liberation.

Before you go on, our video explains the movement in video form here:


Third Cinema is the cinema of liberation, the cinema of the people, the cinema that is not made for sale and commercial distribution but for social change.

In their 1969 manifesto about Third Cinema, Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solañas and Octavio Getino cite two previous cinemas: The first is Hollywood cinema, which they describe as “the bourgeoisie’s main tool for maintaining its power at all levels.”

The second is European art cinema. Whereas Hollywood cinema was geared toward profit and entertainment, European art cinema aspired to be a space for “aesthetic experimentation and critical judgement.”

But these filmmakers understood that both of these cinematic modes were complicit in systems of oppression.

Thus, Third Cinema seeks to be an alternative to these dominant cinemas by creating a space that is oppositional, revolutionary, and political.

As Solañas and Getino write: “Third Cinema is born out of concrete historical conditions in the Third World; it cannot be understood without a knowledge of those conditions.

Its purpose is to intervene in the struggle against imperialism on the side of the people.

It neither desires nor can it afford an aesthetic alibi or refuge in some pure realm untouched by history.”

What Are The Goals Of Third Cinema?

The goals of Third Cinema are to break the dominance of Western media and to create a cinema that is more relevant to the needs of third-world countries. Third Cinema arose as a response to the influence that Hollywood had on filmmaking.

The goal of Third Cinema was to create a cinema that would accurately portray life in the third world and not simply produce films that would be entertaining to Western audiences. To do this, Third Cinema filmmakers sought to make their work act as social commentary, often using non-professional actors.

They also worked towards making their films more relevant to their audiences by creating films that dealt with social issues in the third world such as poverty, imperialism, and cultural identity. 

The Third Cinema movement began in Cuba in the 1960s and was led by directors such as Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Julio García Espinosa.

These directors believed that there was a need for movies that could address specific problems faced by people in Latin America such as revolution, neocolonialism, and marginalization. 

The main goal of Third Cinema is to counter the imperialist domination of media.

The leaders of the movement sought to develop a cinema that would portray life in the third world accurately instead of using Western stereotypes about Africa or Latin America.


Third Cinema And The Third World

The term Third Cinema first appeared in the 1950s, when it was used by French filmmakers in reference to the First Cinema of classical Hollywood cinema and the Second Cinema of Soviet cinematography.

The Third Cinema was a form of political filmmaking that drew on the precedent of documentaries but was also very critical of both Soviet-style (i.e. socialist realist) cinema, as well as Hollywood productions. 

The filmmakers involved rejected the political content of both these styles in favor of a cinema that would “engage the struggle for national liberation,” according to Tom Vick.

This meant that the filmmakers did not want to produce works that were simply propagandistic, but rather works that would explore national liberation struggles from an “authentic” perspective. 

A key idea behind Third Cinema is that film can be utilized as an instrument for political and social change.

The emergence of Third Cinema coincided with decolonization as many newly independent nations attempted to establish new national identities. 

Film provided a new medium for self-expression and representation for these nations.

The term Third Cinema arose at a time when many former colonies were gaining independence through armed struggle.

Third Cinema In Africa: Cinematic Liberation Of The Oppressed

Africa has been continuously producing films that have captured the plight of the African continent, especially in its struggle for liberation. 

Third Cinema has been used as a tool to produce films by and about the people of Africa. 

It stresses the importance of audience participation in the process of filmmaking and creates spaces for debate and dialogue on issues affecting Africa.

Third Cinema is a movement that encourages Africans to be more involved in their own liberation through an awareness of their history and their present condition.

 It tries to move away from relying on Western sources for knowledge about African culture, history, and social problems.

Third Cinema was born out of Pan-Africanism and Black Power movements which stressed black cultural identity, pride, and self-determination. 

Films produced under this agenda are usually political in nature, with a focus on everyday life in Africa.

They often confront issues such as poverty, dictatorship, corruption, and racism, but also deal with topics like colonialism, imperialism, gender issues, and religion.

Third Cinema filmmakers employ a variety of techniques: documentary filmmaking (for example Jamaa Fanaka’s Black Sun), or avant-garde film styles (such as Ousmane Sembene’s Borom Sarret).

Toward A Third Cinema

You will never be sure of the perfect moment to begin a film.

If you can go out and film the reality of the streets, then that’s fine. But it’s not going to be very cinematic.

No one knows what a film should look like anymore, and the best thing about the Third Cinema is that it doesn’t know either.

Instead of ideology, there are methods and structures which have been developed over time, and they’re not dogmatic; they are always open to revision. And because they’re not dogmatic they can be used by many people in different ways.

That’s why we call them a cinema of possibilities or a cinema of investigation. This cinema isn’t interested so much in what has already happened as in what will happen tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

It isn’t interested in defining itself as much as it is interested in understanding itself on its own terms.

Third Cinema Worldwide

The Third Cinema is a political cinema, the cinema of the people and the oppressed, the anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist cinema. 

It is a cultural revolution, one that challenges bourgeois notions of art and culture and supplants them with new ideas.

The Third Cinema was founded with the aim of creating an indigenous cinema, one that would be free from foreign domination and would reflect the concerns of a particular country’s people. 

The First Cinema (also called classical cinema) is that which was produced in Hollywood during its “golden age,” when narrative films were largely based on European models.

The Second Cinema (also called realist cinema) arose in France in response to the perceived lack of realism in Hollywood films. 

Realism was prized over other artistic qualities; accordingly, actors were encouraged to improvise dialogue, shoot scenes in chronological order, and film on location whenever possible.

The Third Cinema arose as a result of Latin American filmmakers’ realization that they had been duped by the promises of European film theory. 

In fact, European theorists had merely been parroting dominant American ideas about film theory.

Garcia and Espinosa, the creators of the movement, never intended for filmmakers to put their ideas into practice. 

History Of The Third Cinema

The history of the Third Cinema is an important part of the history of African and Asian films and filmmakers. 

Many films from this genre managed to reach a large audience, which wasn’t the case with the avant-garde films that had been produced up to that point.

This was mainly due to the introduction of video as a medium for distribution. 

Toward the end of the 1960s, the Western World was undergoing numerous political upheavals, such as student protests and revolutions in African, Asian, and Latin American countries.

These events had a profound effect on film production in those countries, which led to the creation of the Third Cinema. 

The films are characterized by their use of critical revolutionary narratives and aesthetics and their rejection of traditional narrative structures and production methods. The first films that could be classified as belonging to this genre were produced between 1960 and 1964 in Cuba, India, Brazil, Greece, Algeria, and Vietnam.

The films were made outside commercial film studios with limited resources but still managed to reach larger audiences than avant-garde films from earlier decades had done.

Essential Filmmakers Of Third Cinema

In an ongoing series of articles, Indiewire’s Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn highlights some of the most celebrated and idiosyncratic auteurs to emerge from the developing world in recent years. 

The list was compiled in consultation with leading voices in international cinema, including critics and programmers.

A searing, ruthless allegory of colonial oppression, The Battle of Algiers is one of the greatest films ever made about the struggle for freedom. 

Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 drama is an epic story of resistance that follows a disparate group of Algerians (many of them real-life anti-colonial resistance fighters) as they work to undermine French control over their country.

But they use the tactics of terrorism and guerrilla warfare — which are somewhat become synonymous with Third Cinema — as a means to an end, exposing them as desperate, yet ultimately ineffective measures against a seemingly invincible military power.

The film’s message resonates as deeply today as it did during the Vietnam War — when Pontecorvo was originally asked to make it — but its relevance goes beyond that particular conflict.

It’s not simply because Algiers is a black-and-white masterpiece (though it certainly is); it’s because it addresses fundamental questions related to the filmmaker’s experience. 

Essential Films Of Third Cinema

In light of the social changes that were taking place in Latin America in the 1950s and 60s.

This movement sought to break with the tradition of neorealism that had prevailed in Latin American cinema until then, which were films characterized as being aesthetic by nature and paid little attention to the portrayal of social problems.

Those involved in the Third Cinema movement made films for political purposes, which highlighted social injustice and were grounded in Marxist theory.

Film-makers associated with the movement sought to integrate their works into local political struggles and advocated for national cinemas which reflected their own cultures and experiences. 

The major figures of Third Cinema include: Glauber Rocha – Brazil (1939-1981), Rocha was one of the most prominent filmmakers of Brazil’s Cinema Novo period.

He was also one of the founders of Grupo Cine Liberdade (Cinema Freedom Group), which had a major impact on Brazilian culture during the 1960s and 1970s. 

Rocha used his films to disseminate Marxist theory, taking inspiration from literary texts.

Importance Of The Third Cinema Movement

The third cinema movement is a concept in film theory that stresses the importance of political and social revolution in non-Western societies.

The term, coined by the French critic and filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, was originally used to describe a group of filmmakers that included him and his colleagues in France. 

Third Cinema Theory

A Marxist film theory was first formulated in the 1960s, and along with Third Cinema, it emphasizes the importance of representation and how it can be used to challenge oppression. 

First theorized by Cuban filmmaker Fernando Ortiz in his 1940 essay “El Tercer Cine”, Third Cinema Theory is a branch of Latin American Marxism that focuses on the representation and portrayal of people from oppressed or marginalized groups by involving said groups in the creation of media.

Third Cinema Theory attempts to shift Western filmmaking away from its current focus which reflects the economic, political, and social hierarchies of capitalist societies.

And instead create films that represent the true culture, practices, and customs of the people who are living in these oppressed conditions. 

Films are intended to have a political or social purpose and to challenge the power structures that exist within society.

Third Cinema was made in an effort to create an alternative form of filmmaking that would resist commercialism while still being accessible to a wide audience. 

The goal was to make films that were not only aesthetic but also connected their viewers to the underlying message.

This type of cinema was meant to be more than just entertainment but also a means through which people could understand what was happening around them politically and socially.

Third Cinema – Wrapping Up

A lot of work must be done before films of the Third Cinema become part of the regular cinematic experience but I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made towards that end.