The Battle of Algiers was made only four years after Algeria’s independence and three years after the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the 1961 conference of Belgrade where Third World nations created a united platform to challenge American, European and Soviet neo-colonialism.
It was during this renaissance of the colonized and neo-colonized world that two Argentinian filmmakers, Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas wrote Toward a Third Cinema. Published in Cuba’s Tricontinental, a journal dedicated to “solidarity between the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America,” the piece spoke of a new filmic language that was emerging out of the liberation movements of the Third World: a Third Cinema.
Getino and Solanas write: “Third Cinema is... the cinema that 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.”
The name ‘Third Cinema’ was inspired by the notion of the ‘Third World,’ a concept coined in the 1950‘s by Alfred Sauvy as a reference to the French revolution and its ‘Third Estate:’ the marginalized revolutionary masses. The term was proudly adopted by those leading anti-colonial struggles or by those recently liberated from the direct grasp of the imperial powers.
Similarly, Third Cinema is a concept that parallels this post-colonial sense of empowerment, it is a cinema of decolonization-- an art for the oppressed revolutionary masses. As Getino and Solanas write: “A new historical situation and a new man born in the process of the anti-imperialist struggle demanded a new, revolutionary attitude from the filmmakers of the world”.
Pontecorvo’s film materialized during this historic unshackling of the Third World as a collaboration between the Italian revolutionary left and Algerian anti-colonialists. To this degree, The Battle of Algiers qualifies as an example of Third Cinema-- the question this piece evaluates is to what extent does the film fit the concept thematically and aesthetically.