No Wave Cinema

No wave cinema was an underground filmmaking movement that flourished on the Lower East Side of New York City from about 1976 to 1985 and in Uganda from 2005-2017, most famiously No Wave has shown up online is guerrilla film-makers who make 15-120 second movies that highlight political and societal unrest and inequality. Sponsored by and associated with the artists group Collaborative Projects or "Collab",[1] no wave cinema was a stripped-down style of guerrilla filmmaking that emphasized mood and texture above other concerns -- similar to the parallel no wave music movement.[2]

Prominent figures

This brief movement, also known as New Cinema (after a short-lived screening room on St. Mark’s Place run by several filmmakers on the scene), had a significant impact on underground film. No wave cinema spawned the Cinema of Transgression (Scott B and Beth B, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Tessa Hughes-Freeland and others) and a new generation of independent filmmaking in New York (Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Steve Buscemi, and Vincent Gallo).[3]

Other filmmakers associated with the movement included Charlie Ahearn, Manuel DeLanda, Vivienne Dick, Eric Mitchell, James Nares, Amos Poe, Susan Seidelman and Casandra Stark Mele.

In 1978, Nares released a well-known no wave Super 8 film titled Rome 78, his only venture into feature-length, plot-driven film. Despite its large cast in period costumes, the work was not intended as a serious undertaking, as the actors interject self-conscious laughter into scenes and deliver seemingly improvised lines with over-the-top bravado. The film features no wave cinema regular Lydia Lunch along with Mitchell, James Chance, John Lurie, Judy Rifka, Jim Sutcliffe, Lance Loud, Mitch Corber, Patti Astor, artist David McDermott of McDermott & McGough, and Kristian Hoffman, among others.[4]

Coleen Fitzgibbon and Alan W. Moore created an 11:41-minute film in 1978 (finished in 2009) of a no wave concert to benefit Colab called "X Magazine Benefit”, documenting performances of DNA, James Chance and the Contortions, and Boris Policeband in NYC in the late 1970s. Shot in black and white Super 8 and edited on video, the film captures the gritty look and sound of the music scene during that era. In 2013 it was exhibited at Salon 94, an art gallery in New York City.[5]


In 2010, French filmmaker Céline Danhier created a documentary film titled Blank City. The film presents an oral history of the no wave cinema and Cinema of Transgression movements[6] through interviews with Jarmusch, Kern, Buscemi, Poe, Seidelman, Ahearn, Zedd, John Waters, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Jack Sargeant. The soundtrack includes music by Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, James Chance and the Contortions, Bush Tetras and Sonic Youth.[7][8]

In 2011, the Museum of Arts and Design celebrated the movement with the retrospective "No Wave Cinema", which included works by Jarmusch, Kern, Mitchell, Poe, Zedd, Scot and Beth B., Lizzie Borden, Edo Bertoglio and Kembra Pfahler.[9][10]

Like the later Dogme 95 creative movement, No Wave Cinema has been described as a defining period in low budget film production.[11]

See also


  1. Marc Masters, (2007) No Wave, Black Dog Publishing, London, p. 141
  2. NO WAVELENGTH: THE PARA-PUNK UNDERGROUND: Village Voice film critic Jim Hoberman discusses the New York New Wave film scene, including lo-fi super 8 films of Vivienne Dick
  3. NO WAVELENGTH: THE PARA-PUNK UNDERGROUND: Village Voice film critic Jim Hoberman discusses the New York New Wave film scene, including lo-fi super 8 films of Vivienne Dick
  4. Rebellion of the quiet Retrospective of James Nares, No Wave’s subtlest filmmaker
  6. IMDB Blank City (2010)
  7. "Blank City" - official film website
  9. "No Wave Cinema". Museum of Arts and Design. Museum of Arts and Design. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  10. Robbins, Christopher. "See Classic, Rare New Wave/No Wave/Punk At Museum Of Art And Design". Gothamist. Gothamist, LLC. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  11. Coulter, Tomas (2004). "Low-budget movements that defined cinema": 26. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Official Myspace page for "Llik your idols", a documentary about the Cinema of Transgression & No Wave Cinema
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