The history of the cinema has been mostly preoccupied with the films we see on the screen. It has largely ignored and continues to ignore the films that did not materialize as such. We have ignored and continue to ignore this other cinema: an embryonic cinema, a cinema nevertheless, that greatly surpasses in quantity, perhaps also in quality, the number of completed films. There is a dark cinema like there is a dark web: a vast territory inhabited by films that remain invisible because they were never made, never fully made, never projected as a final object but also because very rarely analyzed, discussed, brought to the light of words and debate. This short text is a call to collectively investigate this largely unexplored territory, this cinema of no.[1] I understand that the interest of doing so is not so much in making visible the invisible or in reconstructing what was not to better depict and capture the past. I rather consider that to engage with the cinema of no forces us to imagine other conceptual and material grounds for the cinema – at stake are our very understanding of ‘film’ and ‘cinema’ but also notions such as ‘industry’, ‘product’, ‘spectator’, ‘filmmaker’, ‘process’ and so on. Furthermore I think that the cinema of no opens up new avenues to think and practice cinema at a militant distance from the logics of capitalism. The cinema of no can speak to us about the material conditions of a past that made it impossible for it to materialize, but it can also help us imagine another history and another present for the cinema. 

The cinema of no is composed of a countless variety of abandoned films. There are all the film projects that were aborted for different reasons at different stages of the production (from censorship and repression to financial reasons and biographical reasons, or a mixture of these). Off the top of my head I remember Jean Grémillon’s project on the Paris Commune or his film on the French 1848 Revolution, Le Printemps de la Liberté. I also think of gargantuan film projects by quixotic filmmakers that make me think of Isidore Isou’s lines in Venom and Eternity: «I believe first that cinema is too rich. It is obese. Cinema has reached its limits, its maximum. Under the blow of congestion, this greased pig will tear into a thousand pieces». But I also think about what Chantal Ackerman’s The Manor and the Estate would have looked like. There are also films that changed hands in the process of making them – the making of one film prevailing over another one (such as Mister Roberts, directed by John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy and Joshua Logan). Sometimes a tragic loss forces these changes: the great docu-fiction De Cierta Manera by Sara Gómez was finished by Tomás Gutierrez Alea and Julio García Espinosa after her passing. We could also include in this short and potentially endless list of cinemas of no more theoretical matters: conceptions of the cinema that were not realized, or only in part, reflections on what the cinema could have been or could be in the future. Besides, the cinema of no is a territory also inhabited by decisions, decisions not to. I am thinking of filmmakers and artists – but also actors, technicians, producers - who decided that it was best to stop making films or that it was best to stop making films in a certain way. Douglas Sirk decided not to do another Hollywood film after Imitation of Life. But to inhabit the cinemas of no is not to be solely concerned with the industrial and auteur history of the cinema, its damned complications and brilliant failures. The cinema of no is additionally inhabited by everyday and subjective occurrences. There is the incalculable number of films that were simply sketched, discussed, imagined. These are films outside the industry that artists, writers, thinkers, activists, revolutionaries, spectators imagined but never materialized in a film proper or even in any kind of documentary trace. I recall, for instance, listening to the soundscape that Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson have created in their investigation of Félix Guattari’s Project for a Film by Kafka. But the cinema of no also makes me think of all the films anyone of us has imagined in different circumstances we would do one day, individually or collectively. I have often thought of the (im)possibility of making a film out of one of my favourite short stories, ‘Kleist in Thun’ by Robert Walser.  To accept that the film has already started in our imagination is also to rethink ourselves – anyone – as a filmmaker of the cinema of no. The filmmakers of no are engaged, even in the space of a refusal, in a redefinition of the (im)possible.

Looking at the history of this elusive cinema of abandonment and transformation entails raising important questions and problems with which to (re)think the powers and limitations of the cinema as it has been thought and practiced in different contexts, and as it continues to be predominantly thought and practiced. To study the cinema of no is to raise conceptual, economic, industrial, ideological, aesthetic, cultural, political, affective, biographical questions with which to agitate the cinema, its history and its present – and also the way we write about it. To gather different studies on different cases and experiences is also an opportunity to see consistencies and inconsistencies within this history and between different relations to the cinema. There is much to be learned and much to trouble and transform by collectively venturing into this territory. My intuition is that perhaps in the study of the cinema of no, in all its diversity and through different modes of address, we could not only find new approaches to look at how things have been and how things could have been but that we can also find ideas, arguments and affects to intensify the collective imagination of the cinema to come and our involvement in it.

In this issue of La Furia Umana we can find various essays that contribute in rich ways to the exploration of the cinema of no by looking at different contexts and by developing various theoretical considerations. Sigismondo Domenico Sciortino, in his manifesto-like manual, argues for an invisible cinema. He understands this to be a cinema that privileges the powers of the spectator and that is open to those forgotten by the dominant forms of the cinema, open to the ‘orphans of history’. In three recent projects - the gallery installation Hauntings, the feature film The Forbidden Room and the on-line interactive project Seances, created with the National Film Board of Canada, Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin has set out to remake (or complete) lost and unfinished films from the past.  In this interview, Maddin talks to William Straw about his relationship to the abandoned cinema of the past. Eirik Frisvold Hanssen looks at Sergei Eiseinstein’s project of filming the unfilmable Das Kapital by Karl Marx. He reads film as a ‘monument to absence’ and investigates the allure of these unrealized projects for contemporary artists. Pablo Gonçalo investigates the unrealized film scripts of Bertolt Brecht and understands them as a form of ‘quasi-cinema’ that awaits for the transformation of the world to materialize. In a detailed essay, Raquel Schefer analyses the failed television project of Jean-Luc Godard for Mozambique: an impossible national television without State control. She unpacks the productiveness of this failure by focusing on a second part of the essay on Godard’s Changer d’image - Lettre à la bien-aimée (1982).

This short introduction is also an open call for further investigations and reflections on the subject. It is the intention of La Furia Umana to dedicate further attention to the cinema of no. The work to do is as vast as the territory the cinema of no describes. We therefore welcome new texts, essays, ideas, interviews. Do contact me for further information ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).


Manuel Ramos-Martinez


[1] I speak of the cinema of no in a similar manner to the way Enrique Vila-Matas speaks of the literature of no in his essay-novel Bartleby and Co. (2000)