19

Third World Cinema

Vital national film cultures have gradually developed in the nations of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim, collectively known as the Third World * in the past thirty-five years. By the mid-seventies, Third World cinema was widely recognized as one of the most important and innovative movements in contemporary filmmaking, as significant historically as were Italian neorealism and the French New Wave. The term covers a wide range of films produced on three continents, in countries most of which have long histories of exploitation and colonial oppression by Western powers. Only now are these countries emerging from centuries of underdevelopment, and their struggle to do so has produced one of the most exciting creative impulses in cinema today.

Despite the ethnic and political diversity of Third World countries, their cinemas tend to have several common characteristics that identify them as parts of a coherent international movement. First, Third World filmmakers conceive of cinema not as an entertainment commodity produced to make a profit but as a compelling means of mass persuasion, cultural consolidation, and consciousness-raising. Second, Third World filmmakers often but not always operate from an independent production base outside of their countries' established (and usually Western‐ dominated) film industries. For this reason, Third World cinema is distin-

____________________
*
The term also includes India and the PRC, as discussed in the previous chapter. Historically, the concept of a Third World is a post—World War II phenomenon in which the "developing nations"—most of them formerly colonies of various European countries— were counterposed to the "free world" of the Western democracies dominated by the United States, and to the "socialist world" of the communist countries dominated by the Soviet Union. Geopolitically, the postwar world came to be divided into developed countries with market economies (the United States; Canada; Western Europe, including Scandinavia; Japan; Australia; New Zealand; and, less clearly, Israel and South Africa), countries with centrally planned economies (the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the People's Republic of China, Mongolia, North Korea, and Vietnam), and developing countries with mixed or market economies (i.e., Latin America, the rest of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East). This latter group came to be called the "Third World" after the Bandung Conference of nonaligned nations in 1955. Economically, the developed countries account for one-fifth of the world's population and consume about 60 percent of the gross domestic product; and the Third World, which accounts for half of the world's land mass and half of its population, consumes around 12 percent of the gross product. In other words, the countries of the Third World are bound together by a level of poverty barely conceivable to the majority of inhabitants of the rest of the world.

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