Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 7:30pm
Julio García Espinosa's Third World, Third World War

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Third World, Third World War, Julio García Espinosa, 1970, digital projection, 90 mins

Tercer mundo, tercera guerra mundial (Third World, Third World War) exemplifies the remark of its director, Julio García Espinosa, that it is "impossible to question a given reality without questioning the particular genre you select or inherit to depict that reality." Shot in North Vietnam during the period following the cease-fire of March 1968, the film sets out to analyze the policies and strategies of the US in the conduct of the war, contrasting the inhumanity of the imperialist war machine with the simple humanity and ingenuity of the Vietnamese peasants forced to take up armed struggle in order to survive. Beginning in an orthodox expository mode—commentary over borrowed footage interspersed with textual captions and maps to narrate the history of American intervention in Vietnam—it doesn't take long before the genre conventions begin to slip away and the pace slows down for testimonies from ordinary people, at first narrated over mute images sans music (to avoid manipulating the viewer’s emotions). Then, after the historical narrative catches up with the present, and the film joins the film crew on a tour of North Vietnam, it turns into a travelogue, with synchronous sound and live interviews. But it's not like, say, visiting notable places of revolutionary achievement in the Soviet Union (which several Cuban filmmakers, Julio included, would do in the 1970s). This is an itinerary of physical destruction and human resilience. The film crew almost comes under attack, yet the reality they seek to document remains elusive, and when they meet a coastal anti-aircraft battery crewed by young women, the film discards documentary convention entirely, as the director asks one of them to set up the scene for the cameraman to show how they prepare for battle.

In short, this is a film at once didactic and self-aware. It is also a paradigm of what Espinosa called "imperfect cinema" in a polemical essay written just after the film was made—one of the key documents of the continent-wide movement known as the New Latin American Cinema—where he argued that the imperfections of a low-budget cinema of urgency, which seeks to create a dialogue with its audience, are preferable to the sheen of high production values which merely reflect the audience passively back to itself. Imperfect cinema is not formulaic, neither a genre nor a style, but the concept has a crucial Brechtian dimension: by questioning the representation, it would be a cinema that demystifies itself, "the opposite of a cinema which 'beautifully illustrates' ideas or concepts which we already possess." In this spirit, Third World, Third World War, for all its imperfections, is an effective practical demonstration of partisan poetics.

- Michael Chanan

Special thanks to the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, Havana.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.