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Can the Subaltern Film?

So, for today we got a lot to read.  I’m not sure if it was more than other weeks, but it sure felt like it.  Not sure why.  Maybe I’m just tired.  A lot of interesting stuff though.

Anyhoo, in the order the readings were listed on the syllabus:

Sloanas and Getino “Towards a Third Cinema.”

A manifesto, is it not? S&G are calling for a Marixst overthrow of the Euro-American film industry’s influence in Latin America, one that they see as a sort of cultural colonization.  They start by asserting that all films, until “recently” (1997?) were no more than consumer goods.  For them, even politically active films that find some root in Hollywood and European films are still Establishment cinema, contributing to the cultural suppression of the colonized nation.  They then move on to ask whether revolutionary film can be made before the revolution, or if the revolution needs revolutionary film to spur it on.    They also refer to the division of art into two sphere: the political and the aesthetic, which we’ve seen a few other writers do so far.

They eventually explain how cinema can be made subversive, into a weapon.  Their guerilla cinema, a movement they see as taking plae across countries throughout the third world, needs to subvert the industry of film and seize production for itself in order to transform (and this is really cool) the camera into “the inexhaustible expropriator[s] of image-weapons” and the projector into “a gun that can shoot 24 frames per second.” !

Rocha, “An Esthetic of Hunger”

Rocha’s work also sees third world cinema as one of violence, since this violence is the outward expression of hunger.  Because of an inability for third-world cinema to communicate suffering to the first world, Cinema Novo, as he calls it, confronts the colonizer with the only thing he understands.  Violence forces recognition.

Espinosa, “For an Imperfect Cinema,”

A waaay interesting take on cinema of revolt, Espinosa, like Solanas and Getino, is mapping a path to an authentic third-world cinema by subversion, but unlike the others, who concentrated on subverting the production, Espinosa writes of subverting the form itself.  He argues that traditional aesthetic evaluation of film needs to be disregarded by revolutionary filmmakers, and that films that would probably be considered “bad” would carry the most political heft.

Stam and Spense, “Colonialism, Racism and Representation,”

This essay, much like Said’s writings on orientalism, explain how film is involved in the “othering” of colonized and subjected peoples, becoming a means of oppression. Minority and third-world people are demonized or, just as importantly, otherwise stereotyped (even with qualities that could be considered “positive”) by traditional films.  History and geography are misrepresented to suit the political needs of the colonizer.  They emphasize that this racsim is systemic, not individualized, and hope to draw attention to it.

Wollen, “Godard and Counter-Cinema,”

Hello?  What’s this one doing in here? No, i think I get it.  Wollen’s also talking about revolutionary filmmaking, but his essay is about a Euro-centric Marxist revolution (am I wrong?), or , at least, a not-specifically-third-world revolution.  He details how Godard’s work subverts the conventional form of cinema in order to lay the groundwork for revolution. Ultimately, he feels Godard’s counter-cinema isn’t truly revolutionary, since, as counter, it only operates in a society with a functioning established cinema.

and, finally, Crofts. “Reconceptualizing National Cinema,” which goes through what he sees as the major forms film had taken across the world in 1993.  He ends by arguing, I believe, against western concepts of film canon,which he sees as far too limiting on the one hand and contributing to the othering of alternate forms of cinema on the other hand (Hey, there’s an Edward Said sighting).

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One Comment

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