What is Counter Cinema?

What is Counter Cinema?

In film study, there are a variety of potential genres and underlying theories by which a film may be represented. Many film theories are oppositional in nature while others are quite the opposite indeed. The idea of counter media provides representation for those less dominant topics leveraging resistance to the traditional norms of media in a dominant society, but what is counter cinema exactly?

What is Counter Cinema?

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Counter cinema represents a movement toward the production of films that stand in direct opposition of mainstream Hollywood cinema depicting topics which resist traditional norms and ideological dominant views. Counter Cinema offers an alternative to mainstream cinema featuring a completely different means of representation as compared to mainstream Hollywood film. 

By definition, Counter Cinema would appear to encompass a number of different genres and cinematic theories of film production. Particularly, the idea of feminist cinema, avant-garde, and event Third World Cinema as well as several other cinematic realms that go against the grain and represent topics and subjects which reflect alternative language to that of dominant society or dominant Hollywood could be considered that of Counter Cinematic expression. 

The values of counter-cinema are those which are counter imposed or opposite of what would be considered orthodox cinema or traditional cinema. Thus a counter cinematic approach might be to examine topics that are otherwise considered against the grain, confrontational, or antagonistic in some ways. 

The Origination of Counter Cinema

The theory of Counter Cinema dates back to the 1960s and continues to be a point of interest for theorists that are interested in examining films which go against the Hollywood norms of today’s society. Conventional Hollywood cinema largely focused on producing films which could be directed to a very specific audience. That audience was primarily white, average income, and predominantly from the middle class. Very little focus in cinematic production has been on targeting the cultures and values of the lower class, those from less dominant cultures and backgrounds, or those who predominantly fall within certain classes of society outside the dominant, stereotypical “norms” of society.

Coupled with various leftist movements and a focus on representing the underrepresented, Counter Cinema would rise above traditional Hollywood cinema during the rise of feminism, civil rights, and similar influences towards shifting thoughts and patterns regarding race, political views, cultural norms and society. 

Many believe that Counter Cinema originated with the Third Cinema movement in film that was largely dominant in Latina America and focused on criticizing neoculturalism. It was in fact Third Cinema that gave rise to the inclusion of other forms of cinematic expression in the film industry, particularly to the representation of these less dominant views and areas of society at this time, but Counter Cinema would continue to gain popularity long after it was introduced in the 1960s. 

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Counter Cinema Techniques

Counter Cinema represents a plethora of topics and is certainly not a homogenous theory by any means. In fact, Counter Cinema actually aims at delivering a variety of unconventional topics through film media and cannot be pinpointed to a single genre, theory, or angle. Within Counter Cinema you’ll find that not only do films of this genre or style feature unique topics but they also include the use of subservient camera angles and shooting techniques.

The techniques used in producing films that fall within the Counter Cinematic theory may encompass a wide range of professional cinematic styles from many different backgrounds. As opposed to traditional Hollywood filmmaking, Counter Cinema will typically use a nonlinear structure in production and is likely to cater to a much wider audience than a traditional film would.

For example, a traditional film might follow a very clear construction in which each event in the story builds upon the last to produce a classical chain of events in which there is exposition, complication and resolution. Likewise, Counter Cinema will almost certainly approach the storytelling process from an entirely oppositional manner in which, instead of a linear structure, the narrative may honestly not be a story at all but rather a rhetoric in which there is reiteration, amplification, and digression that is seen through intermittent flashes rather than through clear sequencing of events. The idea being to disrupt the traditional narrative focus in favor of drawing the spectator’s attention to his or her inner thoughts so as to encourage reflection.

Effectively, a film that of the Counter Cinematic type is likely to encourage the audience to shift their mindset from thinking, “what happens next” to “what is the purpose of this film, and why?” While this may cause you to wonder exactly what the draw is toward Counter Cinema, it’s important to note that much of the Counter Cinematic technique is focused on dispelling the fantasies and ideologies of traditional Hollywood Cinema is direct opposition delivering an antagonistic and aesthetic device. 

So, what is Counter Cinema? It’s an alternative to mainstream Hollywood Cinema in which the focus is on the less than dominant representation of topics, cultures, and exceptional elements of society which are unrepresented or underrepresented. Sometimes referred to as Third Cinema, although not technically the same, Counter Cinema was believed to originate as a result of Third Cinema which largely represents a political cinematic movement in which films display socially realistic portrayals of life emphasizing the less than popular topics of poverty, personal identity, and cultural deviation from societal norms.

Counter Cinema provides Hollywood with a direct argument to mainstream cinema representing feminism, racial inequalities, cultural norms, human rights, and many other topics that represent minorities and the underrepresented populations throughout society.  

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