Academic journal article French Forum

Selma Baccar's Fatma 1975: At the Crossroads between Third Cinema and New Arab Cinema

Academic journal article French Forum

Selma Baccar's Fatma 1975: At the Crossroads between Third Cinema and New Arab Cinema

Article excerpt

When Selma Baccur released Fatma 75, her first, feature film and the first documentary in Tunisia by a woman, in 1975, two vital manifestoes on film in the Third Work and in the Arab world had already appeared a few years earlier. The Third Cinema Manifesto by Solanas and Getino had influenced militant cinema in previously colonized areas while the New Arab Cinema collective had announced its aesthetic and thematic plans for cinema in the Arab world after 1967. The New Arab Cinema Collective, started at the Damascus Film Festival in 1968, subverts the old, submissive cinema of the Arab world, dominated by melodrama, fiction and male directors. There was a significant move towards documentary realism and women's issues. Processing an internal self-reflexivity that reveals the nation's dynamic, women became more outspoken about their own contemporary realities. Around the same time the Third Cinema Manifesto by Solanas and Getino found a worldwide following. Their guerrilla filmmaking practice, including a political message of rebellion against oppression of any kind, reveals a preoccupation with everyday reality. As these two revolutionary filmmaking practices found their way into former colonies and newly emancipated women, it seems important to discuss the first documentary made by a Tunisian woman in this light.

The Third Cinema manifesto based itself in Fanon's Marxist writings on the independence of Third World countries. Third Cinema filmmaking molded postcolonial filmmaking practices in North Africa. Solanas and Getino defined Third Cinema as follows:

  The anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples of the Third World and
  of their equivalents inside the imperialist countries constitutes
  today the axis of the world revolution, Third Cinema is, in our
  opinion, the cinema dial recognizes in that struggle the most
  gigantic cultural, scientific, and artistic manifestation of our
  time, the great possibility of constructing a liberated personality
  with each people as the starting point--in a word, the decolonization
  of culture. (1)

Their approach to cinema was highly politicized and fundamentally Marxist. The System for them was, on the one hand, colonialism and Hollywood cinema ruling film production and distribution, and on the other, the neo-colonial situation in many newly independent nations: the established bourgeoisie emulating European morals and values and their dictatorial politics and cultural aspects. The militant guerrilla films they proposed were supposed to be revolutionary reactions against the capitalist System and the bourgeois consumer, in the vein of the violence and militancy Franz Fanon saw as necessary in order for the revolution to be complete and effective. The alternative they envisaged for cinema was a politicized content that turns passive viewers into active contributors and ignites involvement in the struggle against the System. In their view documentary lent itself best to a polemical and political outlook on the postcolonial world. Their Manifesto was therefore one that publicized an aesthetic of anger and militancy, whereby the revolution can only be successful if it is highly political and violent. Solanas and Getino strongly opposed "fantasies and phantoms" and that which makes "the image of reality more important than reality itself," which they attributed to imperialism and capitalism. They were looking for a cinema of the revolution that was "at the same time one of destruction and construction: destruction of the image that neo-colonialism has created of itself and of us, and construction of a throbbing, living reality, which recaptures truth in any of its expressions." (2) They thus preferred documentary, stating that

  documentary, with all the vastness that the concept has today [...]
  is perhaps the main basis of revolutionary filmmaking Every image
  that documents, bears witness to, refutes or deepens the truth of a
  situation is something more than a film image or purely artistic
  fact; it becomes something which the System finds indigestible. … 
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