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MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM

DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES,


1970-1980
JONATHAN BUCHSBAUM

Rsum : Dans la seconde moiti des annes soixante, au moment o le mouvement


contestataire contre la guerre du Vitnam samplifiait, des militants de la Nouvelle
Gauche se tournrent aussi vers le cinma militant. Aprs la formation en 1967
de collectifs dactualits cinmatographiques connus sous le nom de Newsreel, le
groupe de New York changea de nom et devint Third World Newsreel (TWN)
en 1971, afin de reflter linfluence du discours colonial interne , en rfrence
aux personnes de couleur opprimes aux .-U. Cependant, Third World Newsreel
concentrait ses activits sur la production de films et assurait lui-mme la distribu-
tion de ses propres films. Fonde au dbut des annes soixante-dix, cette entreprise
de distribution assura la diffusion de films militants poustouflants produits en
Amrique latine au cours de cette priode.Le groupe Third World Newsreel
son tour changea de nom quelque temps aprs et devint Tricontinental
Film Center , bas New York et San Francisco, et distribua les films de Jorge
Sanjins, Fernando Solanas et Octavio Getino, Toms Gutirrez Alea, Humberto
Sols et ceux de nombreux autres cinastes dans le cadre dun engagement visant
protester contre les rgimes rpressifs prsents dans tout lhmisphre, et dfier la
censure des films de Cuba.Cette explosion du militantisme cinmatographique aux
tats-Unis atteindra son point culminant lors des Rencontres internationales pour un
nouveau cinma, tenues Montral en 1974. Avec la vague de rpression politique
qui svissait dans la rgion dans la seconde moiti de la dcennie et le rtrcisse-
ment du march de la distribution non commerciale aux .-U. en raison des chan-
gements technologiques qui survinrent dans les activits de production des mdias,
le militantisme entourant la distribution de ces films commena perdre du terrain.

In the second half of the 1960s, radical political activity in the United
States rapidly expanded as the carnage of the Vietnam War increasingly
dominated the news, especially on the national television networks. Critics of
that coverage identified a credibility gap between the information released by
the government, parroted by the corporate media, and the truth, including the
deeper causes of the war which many traced to a broad anti-imperialist struggle
throughout the Third World. Alternative media tried to fill that gap. Underground
newspapers proliferated, and cinema provided images, sounds and analyses of

canadian journal of film studies / 51


Revue canadienne dtudes cinmatographiques
Volume 24 no. 2 | fall | automne 2015 | pp 5165
similar struggles in countries fighting for national liberation. Militant filmmakers
from those countries sought to intervene in these battles, producing powerful
works that both informed and electrified audiences, articulating links between
anti-imperialism and neo-colonialism. In his opening remarks at the Montreal
workshop on How to Show the Films, Gino Lofredo, one of four representa-
tives from the Tricontinental Film Center, emphasized the enormous scale of
opportunities for distribution of these gripping films in the United States. The
network included not only commercial, including art, cinemas, but also 16mm
exhibition possibilities offered by high schools and universities. That extensive
network provided the material conditions for widespread dissemination of
films from the Third World during the 1970s in the U.S., where the films often
received both commercial distribution and non-theatrical exposure, accompa-
nied and propelled by consistently positive critical reception.1 Those propitious
circumstances peaked just around the time of the Montreal conference on New
Cinema in 1974, for the end of the decade saw the waning of that incandescent
episode of militant filmmaking. This brief account will try to sketch out some of
the contours of the distribution of those films in the U.S.
In his recent invaluable work retrieving the audiovisual record of the 1974
Montreal conference, Mariano Mestman applied the title of Estados Generales
del Tercer Cine, though the conference bore the name of Rencontres interna-
tionales pour un nouveau cinma. In the Introduction, Mestman explained that
he chose the title partially on the basis of the citation in the announcement of
the conference of a passage from the 1969 manifesto by the Argentines Fernando
Solanas and Octavio Getino, Hacia un tercer cine, (Towards a Third Cinema)
which had appeared first in the journal Tricontinental, published simultaneously
in four languages (Spanish, English, French, Italian) in Havana.2 While other
widely circulated manifestos emerged out of other countries in Latin America
(and elsewhere in the Third World), the Third Cinema manifesto, for various
reasons, almost certainly had more of an impact in the developed countries than
the other manifestos.3 Perhaps the most salient reason for its renown was that
the manifesto was written as a theoretical accompaniment to one specific film,
the four-hour and twenty-minute La hora de los hornos (Hour of the Furnaces,
Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, 1968). That film mounted an aggressive
argument against neo-colonialism in Argentina, especially in the percussive first
part mixing didactic montage with a pounding, propulsive musical sound track.
In the manifesto, the authors called the film projector a gun that fires 24 times
per second. After the screening at the 1969 Via del Mar (Chile) film festival,
Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruz reported that the film hurled us against the walls
and left us breathless.4 In addition, the filmmaker/theoreticians viewed their
work as part of the militant Peronist movement fighting neo-colonialism in
Argentina, which succeeded in bringing Juan Pern back to power in Argentina
in 1973. The manifesto, and other writings in the following years, argued at

52 Jonathan buchsbaum
Fig. 1: Cinaste cover.

length for the use of film in political struggles, and unlike the other manifestos,
paid considerable attention to the distribution of the films.5
By the late 1960s in the U.S., the anti-war movement was growing, and
much of the left saw resistance to the war in Vietnam as part of an anti-imperi-
alist struggle. Filmmaking groups throughout the country formed to contribute
to the anti-war efforts. Filmmakers in several cites joined together in a loose
umbrella organization known as Newsreel. As the name suggests, Newsreel
sought to present counter-reporting on foreign and domestic struggles in the
U.S., covering the student strike at Columbia in 1968 and anti-war demonstra-
tions in New York and elsewhere. Accounts of some participants have described
the beginnings of this nascent filmmaking as characterized by various divisions
among the participants. Christine Choy, for example, has described one central
distinction between the haves and the have-nots. White males had Ivy
League educations, family money, filmmaking equipment and experience;
women, including women of color, lacked those advantages. In early 1971, the
New York Newsreel group changed its name to Third World Newsreel to reflect
the change in orientation, which the have-nots had imposed on the group.
Third World Newsreel did distribute films but primarily their own films
made by Newsreel or other filmmakers in the U.S. The catalogues did have a
sprinkling of films made by filmmakers from the Third World, but their distribu-

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 53


tion of Third World films was probably a minor part of their distribution, and the
loose coordination of the groups nationally limited their outreach. That is, the
filmmakers concentrated on the production and distribution of Newsreel films.
While representatives from other U.S. filmmaking organizations attended
the Montreal conference, those groups, like Newsreel, devoted their resources
to production.6 Only Tricontinental appears to have been established exclu-
sively as a distribution company. It was founded by two brothers, Rodolfo and
Carlos Broulln, originally from Argentina before they moved to New York City
as teenagers, and fellow Argentine Gino Lofredo, all living in the Bay Area in
1970. Rodolfo and Lofredo, seeking to challenge U.S. Treasury Department
travel and trade restrictions, traveled to Cuba in 1969 as Venceremos brigadistas,
where they saw Cuban films.7 In 1970, the Broulln brothers and Lofredo met
Walter Achugar, a Uruguayan, at the San Francisco film festival. Achugar, with
many contacts in Latin American film circles, was carrying around a number of
Latin American films, including Blood of the Condor (La Sangre del cndor/Yawar
Mallku, 1969), the Bolivian film (shown at the 1970 SF film festival), directed by
Jorge Sanjins about U.S. Peace Corps workers engaging in a sterilization project
with indigenous Bolivians, a startling expos of humanitarian aid funnelled
to countries through U.S. organizations like the Peace Corps and Agency for
International Development. However, Achugar offered them the opportunity to
screen a Chilean film by Aldo Francia, one of the organizers of the historic 1967
festival in Via del Mar, Chile, often credited as the first significant showcase
of what later became known as the New Latin American Cinema. Carlos has
related that they worked hard to promote Francias film, Valparaso, Mi Amor
(1969) at the Berkeley campus and at the progressive Catholic Newman Center
just off campus. The success of those screenings, and the scrupulous transfer
of the proceeds to Achugar, cemented the relationship with Achugar, who then
proceeded to give them access to other films.
Founded as the Third World Cinema Group by the Broullns and Lofredo,
TWCG began distributing many of the best-known Latin American films,
including Blood of the Condor. They also acquired rights to Hour of the Furnaces,
though apparently the film was shown originally through contact with Jorge
Daz in Argentina, a member of the group that produced Hour of the Furnaces,
Cine Liberacin. The New Yorker theater in New York, run by Dan Talbot,
showed the first part of the film on February 25, 1971, with no distributor listed
in the New Yorker ledger; the following year, on March 9, 1972, the New Yorker
showed the film with J. Daz as the distributor. According to Carlos Broulln,
TWCG was contacted around that time by actor Ossie Davis, informing them
that he and wife Ruby Dee had already registered a company known as Third
World Production, and threatening legal action if TWCG did not change its
name. Consequently, the founders chose Tricontinental Film Center as the
new name. The group also hired Gary Crowdus as Vice-President to work on

54 Jonathan buchsbaum
publicity and booking, while Crowdus continued his work as founding editor
of the key progressive film journal Cineaste, begun in 1967 and still going strong
today. Cineaste, for example, re-published the English version of Hacia un tercer
cine (presumably from the English edition of Tricontinental) in 1970.8
One of the first (undated, but c. 1973) Tricontinental catalogues begins
with a prefatory note distinguishing its holdings from those of other distributors:
Unlike the Third World films offered by other educational film distributors,
most of the shorts and features (both documentary and dramatic) from Tricon-
tinental have actually been made by film-makers in the Third World. Tricon-
tinental filmsoffer an inside look at situations and conditions in the Third
World, the Third World as seen through the eyes of its own people.9 Further-
more, a footnote to that clarification explains that their revised interpretation of
the term Third World now included those nations colonized, neo-colonized or
otherwise dominated and exploited by the more advanced industrial statesas
well as oppressed nationalities within the U.S. such as Chicanos and Afro-Amer-
icans. This reference to oppressed nationalities within developed countries cor-
responded to the rationale for the transformation of Newsreel into Third World
Newsreel, to extend the political work to domestic domination characterized by
racism and sexism, an internal colony discourse described by Cynthia Young
in her historical account of Newsreel and Third World Newsreel.10
The Tricontinental catalogue received a boost with the acquisition of the
astonishing Cuban films that reached the U.S. in the first half of the 1970s. Early
in 1972, a Cuban festival was organized in New York City, but the government
shut the festival down after the first nights screening of Luca (Humberto Sols,
1968) because the films were deemed to have been brought into the country
illegally without the proper license. However, the combination of positive
reviews of the films critics managed to see and the notoriety of the censorship
conferred a certain cachet on the films. After the repressive closing of the
festival, several of the Cuban films opened in commercial theaters to general
critical approbation, especially Memories of Underdevelopment (Toms Gutirrez
Alea, 1968) and the three-part Luca. Both films were shown at the 1st Avenue
Screening Room (in NYC) and reviewed widely in mainstream publications,
copiously cited in the Tricontinental catalogues.
Though Tricontinental arranged rights for the films through the Center
for Cuban Studies (in NYC), the government once again sought to suppress
the Cuban films in 1976 by formally charging Tricontinental with violation of
a 1938 law (the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, broadened in 1952
under McCarthyism) that required companies or organizations to register as
foreign agents if they were disseminating foreign propaganda.11 The press
picked up on this latest incident of censorship. Variety and Back Stage reported
on the case against the little Tricontinental, and according to one letter of protest
distributed by Tricontinental, In response to an appeal from Tricontinental, the

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 55


Fig. 2: Publicity for the film The Traitors (Raymundo Gleyzer and Cine de la Base group,
Argentina, 1973). (Distributed by Tricontinental Film Center.)

Center for Interracial Books, along with hundreds of other organizations and
individuals, promptly forwarded letters to the Attorney General protesting the
Departments action.12 The Justice Department eventually backed off, though
Carlos Broulln has recently speculated that Tricontinental would surely have
lost the case, for the supposedly liberal Warren Supreme Court had unani-
mously voted to uphold the law.
As Carlos Broulln has described it, Tricontinental developed a three-tier
distribution strategy, based on the types of screening venues, with a correspond-
ing scale of prices.13 The top tier was commercial release in theaters. Those
screenings commanded the largest rental fees and secured reviews crucial for
circulation in the other tiers. After the commercial release, often for short runs,
many high schools and universities rented the films. As the catalogues amply
illustrate, Tricontinental depended heavily on the reviews garnered by the first
tier releases. The two popular Cuban films, Memories and Luca, perhaps aided by
the controversies created by heavy-handed attempts at government censorship,
just after Hollywood had revised and relaxed its own rating system to accom-
modate the changing mores of the 1960s, drew considerable praise from a wide
range of mainstream publications, including daily papers in large cities (New York,
Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles) and prestigious weeklies. Tricontinental took
advantage of these reviews to use as blurbs in their catalogues. Thus, the 1977-78
catalogue lifted excerpts from many reviews for Luca, from the New York Times
(a small but undeniable masterpiece), the N.Y. Daily News (a remarkable film
[with] exceptional beauty and sensitivity), the Boston Globe (the most extraor-

56 Jonathan buchsbaum
dinary movie Ive seen this year), Newsweek (brilliant), and Ms. (one of the
wittiest, most sympathetic statements on the inequality suffered by women).
Memories received similar encomia.
At first glance, this favourable critical reception might sound surprising for
films made in a country so ostracized politically and diplomatically by successive
U.S. governments, yet the films in fact contradicted the images of a Marxist dic-
tatorship promulgated by those administrations. It is crucial to understand the
context and reasons for the overwhelmingly positive reception of these two
films, and Latin American films more generally at the time. For the U.S. left,
the Cuban Revolution represented the only successful socialist revolution in
Latin America, often referred to as Americas backyard. Cuba supported revo-
lutionary movements throughout the hemisphere, and the U.S. media since the
Cuban missile crisis of 1962 tarred Cuba with its Cold War brush as a threat to
democracy or more pertinently to the claim to hemispheric hegemony asserted
under the Monroe Doctrine. The U.S. to this day maintains an embargo on
Cuba. But contrary to the U.S. media descriptions of Cuba as a Marxist dicta-
torship, these two films in particular showed a Cuba able to grapple with con-
temporary domestic tensions through sophisticated artistic discourse, not the
Manichaean lens projected by U.S. sabre-rattlers. With humour and brilliant
formal audacity, Memories of Underdevelopment follows the meanderings of a
cosseted vestige of the privileged class before the Revolution who has chosen
to stay in Cuba. Instead of exposing him as a reactionary, the film crafts an array
of aesthetic strategies to illustrate his narcissistic irrelevance to the energy of
the Revolution. The three-part epic Lucia relates the stories of three women in
three different periods of Cuban history, each shown in a different cinematic
style, ending with an open-ended reflection on the persistence of machismo in
the Revolution. Consequently, the films turned out to be impressive ambassa-
dors at least for the richness of cultural life in revolutionary Cuba. The artistic
accomplishment of these films contributed significantly to breaking out of a left
cinema ghetto and building an audience for so many other Latin American and
Third World films of the time.
Perhaps more surprising was the response to Hour of the Furnaces, given
the aggressive ideological analysis pulsating throughout the unusually long
Argentine film. In its announced attempt to turn the spectator into a partici-
pant, with a polemical voice-over accompanying the staccato montage aesthetic,
the first part of Hour of the Furnaces, often shown alone (as at the New Yorker
screening14), articulated a revolutionary aesthetic not seen since the startling
success of Potemkin (Eisenstein, U.S.S.R., 1925) fifty years earlier. But even Hour
of the Furnaces attracted reviews that testified to the power of the film, indepen-
dently of the political positions of the reviewers, and Tricontinental made liberal
use of those critics. Writing in the New Yorker, Pauline Kael called the film the
most spectacular example of agit-prop movie-making so farand a far more

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 57


effective gun than Godards revolutionary movies, because though it may
aim at both the heart and the mind, it strikes the heart. Stanley Kauffmann,
the urbane critic for the New Republic, praised it as a film phenomenon and
a phenomenal filmthe best filmof any kindthat Ive seen from Latin
America. In short, this small group of films from Latin America quickened
both the political and aesthetic pulse of audiences in the U.S., already
receptive to criticism of foreign and domestic policies of the U.S. government,
reeling at the time with the revelations of the debacle of the Vietnam War, the
Pentagon Papers, and ultimately, the Watergate scandal that brought down
the Nixon presidency.
At the Montreal conference, as documented in Mestmans book, the
screening of the Cuban film Girn (Manuel Herrera, 1972, on the Bay of Pigs
invasion) provoked a heated exchange between Julio Garca Espinosa, and the
Italian Marxist critic and theorist Guido Aristarco. Aristarco, a harsh critic of
the Soviet application of Marxism, criticized Girn for its triumphalism, in
addition to his indictment of Cubas tight relationship with the Soviet Union.15
Garca Espinosa, who had written the influential 1969 essay For an Imperfect
Cinema, defended Cuban cinema, objecting to the European Marxists indif-
ference to the objective conditions in Cuba. Just as the Cubans were fighting
the constant pressures and plots of the U.S. government, Garca Espinosa
did not appreciate the Europeans doctrinal rigidity that failed to recognize
the needs of the Cuban revolution, in which concrete circumstances did not
always conform to the distant prescriptions of European intellectuals.
Others at the Montreal conference voiced similar criticisms of Solanas,
who worked briefly with the government on film policy after the return of
Pern to power in Argentina in 1973. But even earlier, critics had questioned
the endorsement of Peronism in the second part of Hour of the Furnaces. The
first part offered a devastating indictment of neo-colonialism in Argentina,
with bravura filmmaking exposing the aping of European and North
American culture and economic policy. The second part, however, mounted
an argument in favour of Peronism, a political position sharply criticized by
many on the left, and Solanas had already expressed his disgust with European
intellectuals who he charged did not understand the concrete circumstances
in Argentina, exactly the defense mounted by Espinosa at the conference in
response to the comments of Aristarco.16 Curiously, part of what appealed to
the mainstream critics in the U.S. in the Cuban films was their inclusion of
what they interpreted as acknowledgement of the complexity and tensions
in the new revolutionary country. Thus, Vincent Canby, who reviewed
Memories and Luca sympathetically, wrote that Alea is so full of passion and
political commitment that he has even been able to make an essentially pro-
revolutionary film in which Castros revolution is observed through eyes dim
with bafflement.17

58 Jonathan buchsbaum
To judge from some limited documentation from the end of the decade,
the foreign feature films from Latin America drew most of the rentals at Tri-
continental, supplemented by U.S. titles that dealt with repression at home,
such as Cindy Firestones film Attica (1974).18 While African films figured in
the catalogues of Tricontinental and Newsreel, there was no critical mass of
them released one after the other in the U.S. in the second half of the 1970s
that captured the imagination of the U.S. left as the earlier Latin American
films had. It is also true that there were no identifiable auteurs among the
African filmmakers, with the possible exceptions of Ousmane Sembne from
Senegal and Haile Gerima, originally from Ethiopia but best known for his
American film Bush Mama (1975), made while he was a student at UCLA, part
of the so-called LA Rebellion group of filmmakers. Thus, Sembne, who was
recognized as an auteur, had his films distributed by Dan Talbots New Yorker
Films, where they joined an illustrious roster of primarily European art films,
not militant Third World films. Gerima did make Harvest: 3,000 Years (1976)
in Ethiopia, distributed like Bush Mama by Tricontinental, but in terms of
reputation and bookings, Third World effectively meant Latin American in the
U.S. distribution network. Third World Newsreel also distributed some films
from Africa, Vietnam and Cuba, primarily shorts that did not benefit from
commercial runs, but as noted, Third World Newsreel, like most of the other
filmmaking groups in the U.S., devoted most of their resources to the distribu-
tion of films made by those organizations about domestic struggles in the U.S.
However, looking more closely, it may be more accurate to view Triconti-
nental and Third World Newsreel as complementary organizations, addressing
different but related audiences. As the distributor of the best known militant
feature films in the art cinema milieu, Tricontinental catered to an educated
milieu, with cultural capital, more likely to follow screenings of films in art
houses like Dan Talbots New Yorker and later Talbots Cinema Studio or to
see films in college and high school classrooms. Third World Newsreel, on the
other hand, growing out of filmmaking collectives seeking to intervene in con-
temporary political struggles in the U.S., made their own films and conceived
of distribution as part of their militant production work. And unlike Tricon-
tinental, Third World Newsreel regularly offered workshops to train working
class people of colour without access to training and equipment. In addition,
Third World Newsreel also opened a screening space in New York City,
the Higher Ground Cinema, not only to screen films, but also to promote
political education and activism. In this sense, Third World Newsreel pursued
activities that closely mirrored the use of film in political struggles as outlined
by Solanas and Getino in their theoretical writings on Third Cinema. That
is, Third World Newsreel viewed filmmaking, along with distribution and
exhibition, as part of their radical political commitments. Film had an instru-
mental purpose with no aspirations to qualify as art films.19

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 59


Fig. 3: Christine Choy (right), Third World Cinema Group.

Thus, although there was some overlap in the two catalogues, and Third
World Newsreel actually encouraged the use of Tricontinental films in their
catalogue, the organizations showed different films. Tricontinental normally
held exclusive U.S. rights for their films, signing contracts with filmmakers in
other countries. As noted, the catalogue stressed that the films were made by
filmmakers from Third World countries. The Third World Newsreel catalogues,
no doubt showing their New Left origins, headlined the small number of foreign
films, mostly shorts, from Vietnam and Cuba. According to Christine Choy,
Third World Newsreel probably obtained its copies of Cuban (short) films from
Venceremos brigadistas returning from Cuba, and then proceeded to copy them,
ultimately distributing dupes of dupes of dupes.20
After the phenomenal success of the Latin American films in the first half
of the 1970s, the output of stunning films tapered off. Economic and ideologi-
cal problems in Cuba reduced the output of the state film institute (ICAIC).21
Once again, one remarkable long documentary, Battle of Chile, opened to wide
acclaim, at Dan Talbots Cinema Studio in 1978, and Tricontinental mounted
a publicity push culling squibs from reviews, but it did not form part of an
ongoing production of daring new films to match the clat of the first half of the
decade. The repression of revolutionary movements, of course, took its toll in

60 Jonathan buchsbaum
many countries, with many filmmakers either forced into exile (Littn, Solanas,
Sanjins) or disappeared (Gleyzer). Revolutionary movements were brewing
in Central America, especially in Nicaragua and El Salvador, but those small
countries had no history of film production, and did not produce films that
reached mainstream audiences in those years.
In this lull of revolutionary filmmaking, it is curious to note the establish-
ment of a new festival devoted to Latin American films in Havana in 1979, which
has lasted as an institution ever since. That is, the Havana festival began at a time
when revolutionary energies were no longer ascendant in Latin America. It is
worth recalling in this context a crucial observation of Solanas and Getino in
Hacia un tercer cine. The militant cinema of ten years earlier did not arise with
the sudden appearance of a talented group of filmmakers. In fact, that explosion
of Third World filmmaking during those years took place during what Solanas
and Getino called in their Third Cinema manifesto the crucial precondition for
revolutionary filmmaking: The existence of masses on the worldwide revolu-
tionary plane was the substantial fact without which those questions could not
have been posed.22 While normally rooted in local conditions, the films grew
out of popular struggles in those countries. The political winds had shifted by
the end of the decade for a variety of reasons, above all political repression,
which caused a steep drop in production. In terms of distribution, according to
Lofredo, it was not a demand issue, but a sharp decline in production, asfilm
people, journalists, artists were being arrested, killed, exiled. It is difficult to
convey the impact of this.23
But technological changes surely had their part to play. Videotape cut into
the nontheatrical market, hastening the end of 16mm exhibition. Filmmakers
were shifting to videotape, evidenced at a much earlier date when the proceed-
ings of the Montreal conference were recorded on videotape, not film. While
the transition did not occur overnight, the major studios recognized that video
would have far-reaching effects on the industry. Two studios resisted the intro-

Fig. 4: Rodolfo Broulln and


Gino Lofredo. (Image capture
from the video recording of the
Rencontres internationales pour un
nouveau cinma. Cinmathque
qubcoise.)

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 61


duction of VCRs from Japan, but the other studios moved quickly to sign
licensing agreements with VCR producers. At the same time, studios were
moving into the art film market with the creation of classics divisions driving
the smaller nontheatrical distributors out of business. Thus, Tricontinental
suffered from two of these developments. First, with product drying up, they
were unable to replenish their catalogues. Second, they could not compete for
distribution rights with the classics divisions of the studios. Tricontinental re-
organized in 1980, when it formed UNIFILM, and tried to distribute a number
of Brazilian films, but ultimately was forced to close in 1983. The Hollywood
Reporter, based on Rodolfo Broullns comments, attributed its demise in part
to the financial might of the classics divisions.24
The Montreal conference took place at the crest of the wave of militant
filmmaking of the 1970s. In terms of the number of attendees and the range
of organizations represented, as well as the drafting of proposals to strengthen
relationships among the groups, the conference was the culmination of earlier
meetings of Third World filmmakers in Algiers (December 1973) and Buenos
Aires (May 1974). More than its predecessors, the Montreal gathering addressed
many practical questions of production, distribution and exhibition as well as
theoretical issues faced by radical, Third Worldist filmmaking. The documents
produced at the conference testified to the commitment to build on already
impressive accomplishments. To further those ends in the U.S., Gino Lofredo
reported at the final plenary on a discussion which led to a Resolution of Cinema
Workers of the United States calling for tighter coordination between Tricon-
tinental and Third World Newsreel to produce English versions, distribute and
exhibit Third World cinema in the U.S. as an integral part of an overall effort to
educate the North American public about the culture and political situations
in the Third World. To accentuate the internal colony thrust of Third World
Newsreel, the statement concluded with the call to work on the distribu-
tion of progressive cinema in the U.S., particularly the cinema by and about
Third World peoples in the United States (African Americans, Chicanos, Asian
Americans and Native Americans), in addition to other parts of the world.25
Now that documentation of the Montreal conference is available, one can better
assess its historical significance for militant filmmaking, an achievement that
looks even more impressive when compared with some of the grimmer com-
mentaries compiled to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the New Latin
American Cinema Festival in Havana in 1989.26

The author would like to express his thanks to the following individuals for their
generosity in granting interviews and sharing documentation: Carlos Broulln,
Rodolfo Broulln, Gino Lofredo, Gary Crowdus, Mariano Mestman, Christine
Choy, J.T. Takagi, and Dan Talbot.

62 Jonathan buchsbaum
FURTHER READING

Burton, Julianne. The New Latin American Cinema: An Annotated Bibliography of Sources in
English, Spanish and Portuguese. New York: Smyrna Press, 1983.
______, ed. Cinema and Social Change in Latin America: Conversations with Filmmakers. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1986.
______, ed. The Social Documentary in Latin America. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh
Press, 1990.
Crowdus, Gary. The Montreal New Cinema Conference. Cineaste 6.3 (1974): 26-28.
Hennebelle, Guy, and Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron, eds.Les Cinmas de lAmrique latine : Pays
par pays, lhistoire, lconomie, les structures, les auteurs, les uvres. Paris: Nouvelles ditions
PierreLherminier, 1981.
Isaza, Laura Rodrguez. Branding Latin America. Film Festivals and the International Circu-
lation of Latin American Films. The University of Leeds. October, 2012.
Nichols, Bill. Newsreel: Film and Revolution. Cineaste 5.4 (1973): 7-13.
Lpez, Ana. An Other History: The New Latin American Cinema. Radical History Review
41 (1988): 93-116.
Pick, Zuzana M. The New Latin American Cinema: A Continental Project. Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1993.
Reflections. http://www.newsreel.us/NR@SLC/REFLECTIONS.htm
Renov, Michael. Newsreel: Old and NewTowards an Historical Profile. Film Quarterly 41.1
(1987): 2033.
Schumann, Peter. Historia del cine latinoamericano. Buenos Aires: Legasa, 1987.

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 63


NOTES

1. A 1967 brochure produced by American Documentary Films (San Francisco) claimed that:
This market...based around the university, college and academic communities...number[s]
over ten million film goers, [including] not only the students, but their families and the com-
munities adjacent to academic centers.
2. Tricontinental 13, October 1969. Reprinted in New Latin American Cinema, Volume 1: Theory,
Practices, and Transcontinental Articulations, ed. Michael T. Martin (Detroit: Wayne State
University Press, 1997), 33-58.
3. See Guy Hennebelle, Limpacte du troisime cinma. Rsultats dune enqute internatio-
nale, Revue Tiers-Monde 20 ( July-September 1979): 623-645.
4. Interview with Ruz in the Madrid magazine Araucaria de Chile 11 (1980), cited in J. Mouesca,
Plano secuencia de la memoria de Chile: veinticinco aos de cine chileno (1960-1985) (Madrid:
Ediciones del Litoral, 1988), 32.
5. See especially Cine, cultura y descolonizacin (Mxico, D.F.: Siglo veintiuno, 1973, 1979). See
also Jonathan Buchsbaum, One, twoThird Cinemas, Third Text 25.108 (2011): 13-28.
6. In Montreal, Third World Newsreel filmmaker Sue Robeson stated this orientation clearly:
We have developed our distribution to the point of being able to finance short newsreels. See
Mariano Mestman, ed., Estados Generales del Tercer Cine: Los Documentos de Montreal,
1974, Rehime: Cuadernos de la Red de Historia de los Medios 3 (2013/2014): 172-173.
Accessible at www.rehime.com.ar.
7. Personal communication with author.
8. Cineaste 4.3 (1970-71): 1-10.
9. Films from the Third World, Tricontinental Film Center catalogue (n.d., c. 1973), 1.
10. The term Third World helped provide a language for national minorities not juridically
colonized but who saw themselves as facing many of the selfsame structures underpinning
colonialism. Young insists on the political significance of this transformation from the New
Left-inflected Newsreel to the oppressed minorities activism of Third World Newsreel. See
Cynthia A. Young, Soul Power: Culture, Radicalism, and the Making of a U.S. Third World Left
(Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 150.
11. Rodolfo Broulln commented at the time that This act is so broad that a maid who irons a
foreign diplomats suit could be forced to register. See David Rosenbaum, The three Lucias:
Personae non gratae? The Boston Phoenix, May 11, 1976, Section Two, 3.
12. Dissent challenged, Interracial Books for Children Bulletin 7.5 (1976): 18-19.
13. For example, in the Tricontinental catalogue (1975-75) Blood of the Condor rented for $50 for
use in a high school classroom or non-institutionally funded community organization, $75
for a screening for a college audience of less than 100, and $150 for a screening open to the
student body or public at large (with $150 being the minimum guarantee against the proceeds
from 50% of the gate).

64 Jonathan buchsbaum
14. Tricontinental chose to show only the first part. According to Rodolfo Broulln, We believed
that the critics would shred the complete version to pieces, particularly because they lacked
the interest to engage in a 165 min discussion of Peronism. Personal note to author.
15. In his book on Cuban cinema, Michael Chanan described Girn as a highly original drama-
documentary. Cuban Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 19.
16. See interview with Solanas by Louis Marcorelles in Cahiers du cinma 210 (March 1969): 62.
17. Vincent Canby, Memories, Cuban Film, Draws Bead on Alienation. New York Times, May
18, 1973.
18. Not to be confused with the Third World Newsreel film on Attica, Teach Our Children (1972).
19. At the same time, the founders of the non-profit Tricontinental certainly viewed their work
screening these films at hundreds of venues throughout the U.S. as political activism. As
Carlos Brulln wrote in a recent communication to the author, echoing the words of the other
founders, We literally had screenings all over the US, most of them sponsored by college/
univ groups, cinema clubs, film societies and, of course, political groupings who used those
screenings as a tool to disseminate information and pick up new members.
20. Interview with author. March 20, 2015, New York City.
21. Chanan, 369-372.
22. See footnote 2 above.
23. Personal communication with author.
24. Mary Reinholz, Unifilm, pressed by majors, goes broke, The Hollywood Reporter, August 1,
1983. The conclusion of Tino Balios recent study of the foreign (primarily European) art film
in the U.S. appears to support such an explanation. The Foreign Film Renaissance on American
Screens, 1945-1973 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), 301-307.
25. Estados Generales del Tercer Cine, 227
26. El Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano en el Mundo de Hoy. Memorias del IX Festival Internacional del
Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, Cuadernos de Cine No. 33 (Mxico: Universidad Nacional
Autnoma de Mxico, 1988).

MILITANT THIRD WORLD FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970-1980 65


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