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concordia 06/03/2018 - 05:00PM

Setting Fire to Bourgeois Cinema : An Intro to the 50th Anniversary Screening of the incendiary doc THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES

The following introduction was given by Cinema Politica co-founder Ezra Winton at CP Concordia’s 50 year anniversary screening of THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES, in Montreal on February 19th, 2018. We were thrilled to return to the film’s central questions on the socio-political history & future of Latin America with an enthusiastic public who proved it is still as relevant and fascinating as ever by sitting through 4 hours of this revolutionary Third Cinema doc!

Tonight’s screening marks the 50-year anniversary of a Third Cinema classic, LA HORA DE LOS HORNOS (THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES), by Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino. Third Cinema grew out of the social movements of Latin America and the global south in the sixties and seventies and was coined in a manifesto written by Solanos and Getino in 1969. Third Cinema filmmakers saw the urgent need for a new kind of filmmaking that would mark a radical departure from capitalist Hollywood and the auteur-driven, bourgeois-values art house cinema of Europe. Third Cinema filmmakers like Solanas and Getino saw film as a revolutionary weapon, to be deployed in the service of progressive social change. Crucially, this new direction for international cinema insisted on not only politicizing the message of film, but on the form of cinema as well, which included the ways in which films were made and the democratization of access to filmmaking technologies. Makers recognized and celebrated filmmaking as a collaborative art form, and with THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES Solanos and Getino put philosophy into action by collaborating with Argentina’s underground militant groups in the making of the film and in its difficult and storied circulation that followed. Of this collaboration, Solanas has said:

“Since our goal was to create a cinema not conditioned by the system, a free cinema, a decolonized cinema, a class cinema, a militant cinema involved ideologically and politically in and for the revolution, we had to provide for ourselves the economic resources, the means of production that would permit us to make a film just as freely as a writer producing an ideological essay. With the major difference that a writer, when he writes, doesn’t have to lay out much money, whereas the filmmaker is profoundly tied to the economic conditions of his work.  Consequently, one of the greatest problems we had to overcome was that of the production of the film, and, at the same time, that of making a revolutionary film in a non-revolutionary country whose system is neo-colonialist, capitalist, and bourgeois.” [From “Fernando Solanas: An Interview” in Cinetheque (Paris) No. 3, 1969.]

With images of bourgeois capitalist pastimes like shopping and golfing juxtaposed against scenes of collective revolt and abject poverty, THE HOUR is Third Cinema with a clear revolutionary message. With an uncompromising running time of 4 hours and 20 minutes, and with its grassroots collaborative process, it is also a radical departure in cinematic form at the time it was made. As Third Cinema sought to enmesh revolutionary politics and aesthetics with a new cinema that rejected commercial and auteur film expression, we might, 50 years after the release of THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES, ask if Third Cinema is still relevant today? We might also ask, in the age of Netflix and multi-million dollar superhero movies, what does a “cinema of subversion” look like in 2018?

In keeping with the politics of their Third Cinema manifesto, THE HOUR OF THE FURNACES rejects capitalist views of cinema as a means for trivial artistic or individual expression, positing the directors instead as a part of a collective, and cinema itself as a vehicle for truth, mobilization, and revolutionary activism against imperialism and oppressive systems. Since the directors of THE HOUR sought to construct a cinema against, in part, US imperialism, perhaps 50 years later we can also consider critically the relationship Latin America has to the US, to Canada and to the world. Perhaps this might lead to questions of new forms of colonial violence. Namely, neo-colonial extraction practices across Latin America by Canadian mining companies, practices that continue to wreak environmental havoc and cause massive human suffering.

With all this in mind, we at Cinema Politica believe this classic film still has tremendous aesthetic, political, cultural and historical relevance in today’s context and as such, leave you with a quote from the Third Cinema manifesto:

“The anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples of the Third World and of their equivalents inside the imperialist countries constitutes today the axis of the world revolution. Third Cinema is, in our opinion, 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.” [Sourced from Screening Schillebeeckx: Theology and Third Cinema in Dialogue, p. 16]

So get comfy, but not too comfy (!) and see you in just over four hours.


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