The attempts of Third Cinema directors offer audiences and other filmmakers an insight into aesthetic values that contradict or transform those that have been made popular by Hollywood. The individual aesthetic and storytelling achievements of these filmmakers, though, do not carry a unique weight of activism that encourages distinct national styles and genres. Even though many film theorists who write in favor of Third Cinema as a way to combat cultural imperialism and create unique identities outside of the influence of American and European culture, it is the ideals of these supposedly oppressive cultures that have made it possible for colonized or underdeveloped countries to create films. Furthermore, the theorists often give too much credence to the idea of intentional oppression. Third Cinema offers new choices for audiences, but regardless of its intentions or struggles, it does not set them free or forge national identities for them.
Film theorists writing about the cultural importance of Third Cinema as a way of resisting oppression often approach the subject from an emotional perspective. Those who have lived in impoverished countries undoubtedly know that the living conditions do not compare to those enjoyed by people in developed countries. Writers who have made films in these countries are also undoubtedly aware of how difficult it is for them to secure funding for expensive projects (which would include nearly all films). The problem with approaching these subjects from an angered emotional position, though, is that one can see enemies where they do not exist. Espinosa is an excellent example of this cultural paranoia.
Espinosa writes about an imperfect cinema as a cultural action striking against imperial norms. What he fails to recognize, though, is that American and European countries have little need to force imperialism on most underdeveloped areas of the world. American film production studios will certainly try to find audiences anywhere that they exist, but they take their films to these places because the people there come to see them. Take away the audience (the people), and the cultural influence of film quickly disappears.
The position of cultural protectionism also assumes that American and European cultures have a specifically vested interest in selling films to colonized areas. American and European businesspersons, however, could not care less about what types of products and services that they sell around the world. In fact, one looking closely at laissez faire economic systems will see contradictory forces fighting against each other all the time. Hollywood movie producers might want to sell their films to people in “colonized” nations, but American manufacturers also want to sell affordably priced film equipment to people in these same areas. As manufacturers have pushed forward in their efforts, the prices of cameras, lenses, computers, microphones, and editing software have plummeted. The tools needed to make excellent films are much more affordable for individuals outside of the major production studios than they have ever been. Solanas and Getino do not seem to completely believe that revolutionary films cannot exist before the Revolution, but they have misunderstood the reason that such statements are not true. In truth their misstep is only understood because we currently stand at a different point in history and can see that the free market, instead of homogenizing culture and political opinions, has made it cheaper and easier for individuals to express their thoughts to anyone who will listen.
As a whole, Third Cinema theorists seem overly concerned with repression and censorship. If they experience excessive censorship in their own countries, then this only hints that not all forms of cultural imperialism are negative. Some types of censorship exist throughout the world, but America and Europe are two of the most sought after bastions of free expression in the world. Filmmakers struggling against an oppressive government in Latin America should only be so lucky that their culture will reach democratic levels that allow them to speak freely. In the U.S. and Europe, artists are free to say anything that comes to their minds. True, not all of the artists or their statements will receive popular support, but that does not block them from expressing themselves. It simply means that the general population has chosen not to pay attention to them.
Another thing that Third Cinema theorists could not have recognized when writing in the 1960s and 70s is that small films would eventually make a significant impact on the popular film industry. One cannot expect a small film to gross as much money as Avatar, but there are enough people interested in watching so-called indie films that they make up a sizable market that can support the efforts of filmmakers who choose to focus on subjects and aesthetics that lie outside of the Hollywood milieu.
Documentary filmmakers have been especially eager to use today’s affordably priced filming equipment to delve into their topics of interest. This has led to an independent market strong enough to compete against projects funded by major Hollywood production companies. Many of these projects cost little money, and their biggest hurdle to reaching a popular audience is the outpouring of films made by other independent documentarians.
Looking at the varied independent documentaries released in the United States and Europe over the last decade, one has to wonder what form of culture the Third Cinema supporters fear. In the independent documentary film world, it is almost easier to find a film that chastises America’s imperialistic attitude than one supporting it. This shows that the new marketplace for films hardly conforms to a unified culture of oppression. It is open, interested, and intrigued by the works of otherwise ordinary people who have found a voice within this genre.
Distribution has even become less important since writers like Rocha, Espinosa, Solansa, and Getino expressed their support for Third Cinema. While it is still difficult for small filmmakers with tiny budgets to distribute physical copies of their movies, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive for anyone who can afford a camera to post a video online. It might not make much money this way, but it certainly makes an eager audience easier to find.
It is certainly important for filmmakers to develop their own aesthetic identities. Despite anything that Espinosa might write, filmmakers have to work incredibly hard to create movies that come close to satisfying their artistic visions. Some of the film theorists writing about Third Cinema, though, seem to think that these artistic pursuits can form a national identity that separates them from the rest of the world. While it is true that some regions tend to produce films that maintain a certain aesthetic cohesion and eventually form what one might call a “school” of film, the focus is on the individual filmmaker rather than the group.
Schools almost invariably come from the influence of a particularly talented, hardworking artist. This is true in all forms of art, not just film. Any region- or nation-oriented aesthetic, therefore, will probably stem from the influence of one or two major artists working to inspire likeminded filmmakers. The thematic vision might express a zeitgeist that the filmmaker’s believe in, but the vision itself comes from the work of the individual, and it must, therefore, remain the vision of that individual no matter how much it influences those who watch the film.
Instead of focusing on Third Cinema as a school that resists Hollywood aesthetics, subject matter, and project management styles, it would seem more helpful for those who support independent filmmaker and their supports to put more effort towards the usefulness of current technology that allows them to reach a new audience without having to compete with big production studios. It is hardly fair to compare small, independent movies made on a shoestring budget to movies like Avatar. The only thing that they have in common is that they are both categorized as movies. Directors working on aesthetics and subject matters explored in small movies around the world do not even need to concern themselves with Hollywood. They have two separate audiences. If an audience consistently chooses to see Hollywood movies over locally made, smaller films, then it is more likely that the independent filmmakers have not made a strong attempt to connect with potential audiences. A failure despite all effort does not disprove this position. After all, major film projects flop all the time. Some times directors just make films that no one wants to watch.