Global South and Political Oppositional Cinema

the battle of algiers md web

Films from the Global South (such as that of Latin America, Asia and Africa) seldom receive the kind of acceptance the Anglo-American English movies get across the world. The international film festivals may be an exception where the ‘best’ from such countries is recognised, and it is here that some enthusiastic cinephiles get an opportunity to experience these movies. But they represent only a small section among a minority of people who watch the non-native language movies. One reason for the wide acceptance of Hollywood movies, as well as of British productions, is the reach of English language. However, a cross section of people which included film critics, cinephiles, writers, media filmmakers, and others have been trying to bring as many movies as possible from both the Global South to a larger audience through international film festivals, writings, discussion forums, reviews, video streaming and so on. Over years, considerable progress has been achieved on that front. But the problem, still, lies in the choice of movies that are discussed and appreciated. Undoubtedly, movies that dominate here would be Eurocentric or Hollywood-centric.

Kubrick, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Godard, Truffaut, Spielberg and others are no doubt legendary directors, who enjoy huge fan base all over the world. But we also have Glauber Rocha, Ousmane Sembene, Patricio Guzman, Gaston Kabore, Miguel Littin, Raul Ruiz, Octavio Getino, Fernando Solonis, Abderrohmene Bouguermouh and many others who made some of the finest movies of all time. But their movies are seldom studied like the German expressionist movies, Italian neorealist films, French new wave cinema or any popular Hollywood-British movies. ‘Third Cinema’ which set in motion a wave in world cinema, especially movies from Latin America and Africa, has been not discussed widely as a film movement. A major reason is the role of media which worked hand in hand with the production houses owned by large corporations in the Global North. Another reason could be the imitation by the local filmmakers who made movies which are the products of the English-West movie obsession, a cultural co-option.

The influence of the Global North films is not only reflected through imitations, but also through the penetration of foreign capital into the hinterlands. Many filmmakers in Asia, Africa and Latin America received funds from production companies located in the core like France, Germany, US and UK. The political climate of conflict and social crisis in many of the periphery countries forced them to look up to these companies in the West to finance their film. Some companies directly entered market and became either producers or distributers. Many film production units have local offspring avatars since the 1990s. A cross-boundary travel of movies is also controlled by multinational distributors who buy the rights. In many such ‘bought-movies’ we find the visual narratives conforming to their ideology. Movies which discuss the crucial issues of the Global South, including poverty, class-divide, refugee crisis, climate change, drought, famine, conflict or war, so on, are co-opted by the distributors. There are films that vehemently criticize globalisation or neoliberal economic policies, but these films rarely cross the boundaries.

There may be questions on such issues. Why should we  watch the movies made in Latin America or Africa? Why should we know about ‘Third Cinema’ movement or African Glitch Movement? Why Godfather is a classic, not Battle of Algiers? Some may even ask, do movies really matter in this world? Can a film made in Colombia like Embrace of Serpent communicate with a viewer in India or Ghana, about the colonial experience of a community, cultural quotients of their history, and their perspectives? Can they open up their world to us, and, most importantly, bridge the people through visual narratives?

The visual literacy developed across the world is expected to foster a visual culture, and ideas, ideology, perspectives and life in societies cross the man-made borders to speak the truth in the most effective way. We feel for the boy and mother in the movie Capernaum because we sense the demographic tensions in Lebanon and the emerging social class divides. We empathize with the people we don’t know. The exterior may be different, but the rooted interior points the fingers to the system, a dominating system that controls virtually everyone in the world.

The movies that accept and reinforce the status quo are conformist in nature and those who challenge it are political oppositional cinema (Mazierska 2014). Them what is the choice of Global South? After all, these misfortunes, divides, marginalization, containment, co-option, wars, authoritarianism, political and economic turmoil, social crisis and discriminations are  the only choices of these countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and they constitute  the political oppositional cinema. They can’t conform to the neoliberal capitalist system anymore. Art, which includes cinema, is a resistance; hence movies as cultural texts and political mobilization tool have the potential to aid the alternative moves that call for reforms in the world system and emancipation from the unjust, unequal framework of economic neoliberalism. A new collective of the Global South cinema will be a starting point. Film festivals that offer the venue to screen these films must discuss the potentials of these visual-political narratives. Engaging more people will ensure wide reach for the movies and the intended idea be propagated.

Deleuze (1989) using his ‘time-image,’ conceptualized the ‘minor’ style movies of the Global South which break away with the hegemonic narrative styles of the West as “modern political cinema.” More than imitating the Anglo-American-European-Japanese-Korean narratives, we need movies that recite the lives of people in our society. Cinema can’t separate its existence from the society. The narratives must begin from the society to tap the change we wish to see in the society—from gender inequality to racial discrimination,  from communalism to class divide….  A society can thus set up multiple tropes to engage. The filmmakers of the Global South have the right time to introspect a critical social enquiry in the form of political oppositional cinema. When movies begin to address acute issues in society, people will start to speak about them. A social movement can be set to bring in with the help of visual medium like cinema and its general audience can be made aware of what change our perceptions of diagnoses and prescriptions need in the contemporary world. Now, more than ever, a political oppositional cinema is indispensible that speaks for the socially subjugated Global South.


Beller, Jonathan (2006): The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle, Hanover: Dartmouth College Press.

Deleuze, Gilles (1989): CINEMA 2: The Time Image, Transl. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta; Univ. Minnesota Press.

Mazierska, Ewa (2014): “Marking Political Cinema,” Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, Vol.55, No.1.

Street, John (1997): Politics & Popular Culture, Polity Press: Cambridge.

The write up has also appeared in the Global South Colloquy. The author is a writer on issues of cinema, culture and the politics of the Global South. His articles are also published in his blog .

Global South Colloquy (


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