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Oppositional Cinemas and the Role of Oppositional Filmmaking

While there may not technically be a form of cinema that is considered opposition cinema, oppositional cinemas exist as does oppositional filmmaking which plays a significant role in guiding the socio-cultural and socio-economic contexts of various films.  Many well-known examples of oppositional cinema or oppositional filmmaking thus have criticized the traditional norms of cinema introducing instead counter cinema culture in which the mainstream contrasts entirely with the film. 

The idea of oppositional cinema, or oppositional cinemas thus draws upon the role of oppositional filmmaking which challenges dominant culture codes and conventions in direct opposition of societal “norms.” It instead seeks to represent subject matter that is less that popular. In fact, counter cinema culture, according to filmmaker Peter Wollen who is behind much of the oppositional filmmaking movement, counter cinema is politically-driven and thus generally has an agenda.

What’s the Agenda?

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So what’s the agenda that so much oppositional filmmaking strives to drive? It could be just about anything, but politically speaking, most oppositional cinemas are going to specifically focus on delivery of cinematic experiences which are in direct opposition to the endorsements and illusions that are present in films that traditionally popular in Hollywood. 

Oppositional cinemas frequently shed light on the cinematic delivery of films that have a focus on topics that are less than “popular” or less than “traditional.” In fact, they’ll frequently focus on politics, religion, poverty, feminism, race, and other “touchy” subjects.


These films frequently have an agenda behind them. Be it to encourage a following, to create awareness, or something entirely different. What we do know is that the goals and underlying topics that are the focus of oppositional filmmaking are likely to draw a large, focused audience that is nothing like the traditional audience and yet, equally like the audiences that are so customary from a traditional theater or cinema.

When and How Did Oppositional Cinemas Originate?

The idea of oppositional cinemas or countercinema was something that came about primarily following World War II.  Representing a period in which filmmaking was completely stopped and production would not take place for several years, postwar films would largely include a focus on the countercinema topics that represent oppositional filmmaking still today. The origination of oppositional cinemas would come after the introduction of many postwar films that largely focused on topics that were otherwise, and previously, off limits. 

Counter cinema, also represented as oppositional cinema, has since found its way into a number of countries and on the screens of many different theaters. Perhaps you noticed the racial films that represented prejudice, oppression, and racial injustice throughout the 1980s?  Or, you might recall oppositional cinemas that delivered radical left-wing documentaries that were introduced in Britain starting in the 1990s? Or perhaps you noticed the focus on Feminism in film which took place throughout the 1990s and continues to draw interest from women (and men) worldwide, today.

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Oppositional Cinemas Challenge the Mainstream

We’ve clearly established the premise that oppositional cinemas are focused on challenging the mainstream Hollywood audience, and we realize that the purpose is to produce a film that deviates from the traditional in such a way that there is a new sense of purpose and understanding toward social transformation, but how do oppositional cinemas actually challenge the mainstream media?

Oppositional cinemas seek to establish methods in which audiences interpret films in entirely different ways. The goal instead being that critical judgement and societal change is encouraged or actually examined as a result of the film watching. When was the last time that you watched a film, and thought “Wow! I never thought of things that way.” or, when was the last time you watched a film and de-familiarized the conventions and structures that had been represented in a film?

In complete opposition to how we typically engage in and enjoy a film, oppositional cinemas seek to address an inherently oppositional means of engaging in a film. Instead of watching aimlessly, these films provoke thought, interest, and political, sociocultural, historical, or other patterns of change. Oppositional cinemas deviate from the mainstream, dominant cinematic viewpoints in order to delivery stylistic systems in which there is direct opposition to and challenges in which conventions are no longer dominant.

The Role of Oppositional Filmmaking in Media

Are you wondering why oppositional filmmaking takes place? What is it that makes a filmmaker seek to produce a film that is in direct opposition to what is socially “accepted” or “normal”? The role of oppositional filmmaking in media is certainly fragmental in such that outlets are delivered in a means in which audiences are encouraged to think deeply, to exhibit different angles and ideologies and opinions.

Oppositional filmmaking, though once entirely challenging to deliver to consumers, has recently become incredibly simple to align with existing partisan ideals. In fact, today’s audience seeks the oppositional film and wants to engage in the not-so-mainstream. So if you’re wondering what oppositional filmmaking is or what oppositional cinemas are, you’ve almost certainly not exhibited a film in the recent environment in which media focus is on the less than popular culture. In today’s environment, oppositional cinemas are relatively prominent, and there is no shortage of oppositional filmmaking particularly in regards to topics of feminism, politics, race, religion and culture.