Styles and Forms of Third World Cinema

The filmmakers of Third Cinema employed a variety of styles and forms to illustrate their message. The methods selected often reflected the resources they had available, the content of their work, and the filmmaking conditions of the period. The styles and forms described below are some of the most common in Third Cinema.


The filmmakers of Third Cinema produced some of the most innovative works using various forms of documentary. Ranging from newsreel styles, to TV reportage and eyewitness reports fused with fictional accounts, to creative use of heavy-handed propaganda, television commercials, and photographs, documentary styles illustrated their revolutionary message in innovative ways. Filmmakers using documentary styles often viewed cinema as a site of debate and used images to visualize these concepts in a concrete way. Some filmmakers, such as Santiago Álvarez, made newsreel shorts using still images and carefully selected songs and sounds because these were all he had access to in Cuba. Others filmed documentary footage of coups or protests and were forced to produce and edit their work in exile. Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino's La Hora de los Hornos (Hour of the Furnaces) and Patricio Guzman's La Batalla de Chile (Battle of Chile) are two classic examples of documentary style films; for these films, the fusion of documentary footage with other elements helped shape their revolutionary message by suiting its content.

Cinema Novo

Cinema Novo was a cinematic style used in Brazilian films of the 1960s and 1970s. Cinema Novo is generally associated with the films of Glauber Rocha due to his influential essay “Estética da Fome” (Esthetic of Hunger), but also includes important works such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos's Vidas Secas (Barren Lives). The main aim of Cinema Novo was to clearly demonstrate the scarcity of resources experienced by many in the Third World. For Glauber Rocha, Cinema Novo was revolutionary in its aim to make the hunger of millions of people understood intellectually, by both those who live it and those who do not, using language (or lack thereof) and images capable of reflecting conditions of poverty. In his words, Cinema Novo is “an evolving complex of films that will make the public aware of its own misery.” Cinema Novo was often filmed from the perspective of the people, avoided actors with major star power, and used lighting, cameras, and camera angles creatively to fit the films' budgets. It also avoided existential commentary on poverty, instead presenting it as it is experienced.


Allegory is used in Third Cinema to illustrate problems in a few different ways. In many films, one character is used to represent a larger group, particularly members of a particular social or political class, and illustrates the problems and conflicts experienced within this group. Ousmane Sembene's characters often are used allegorically, such as in Moolaadé, where the Mercenary stops a public whipping and is murdered for his values, and the tribe leader's son returns from overseas and must make a decision to leave tradition behind in favor of progress. In other films, the past is used to speak about the present, such as when a historical character's name or image is used to reflect a present-day persona. Particular sequences or scenes can be used as symbolic examples of desire or frustration experienced by those involved in a struggle against colonialism or doimanation.