The greatest mafia movie ever imagined.
Terry Nguyen, Dirt’s senior staff writer, on the fake 1973 Martin Scorsese film that Tumblr users are manifesting into reality.
On Tumblr, rumor has it that in 1973, Martin Scorsese produced a little-known film called Goncharov. It’s a mafia movie set in Naples, Italy, after the fall of the Soviet Union. There is some dispute over who directed it. Some people believe it was Scorsese, while others claim the director is the pseudonymous Matteo JWHJ 0715. Either way, Scorsese was involved in Goncharov. Robert De Niro stars as the titular character, of course, and the cast features other Scorsese collaborators including Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel, and Cybill Shepherd.
Goncharov isn’t available for streaming, though. It’s a piece of “lost media” that doesn’t actually exist. Tumblr users made the film up — or, it might be more accurate to say, they’re making it up as they go, creating fictional movie posters, photoshopped screenshots, memes, and even video essays about its nonexistent content.
There’s an “official” poster for the film, and users have contributed lore, composed original music, written film analyses, and created fanart and fanfiction. Goncharov is a “giant, cinematic online LARP,” or live action role play. It’s also a fascinating example of collaborative worldbuilding (the topic of the essay that I published on Monday), a fictional project that is collectively being imagined into existence on the internet. “Through parody and satire we’ve shaped this into something solid and genuine,” wrote one Tumblr user, who alluded to other examples of fictional conspiracy theories and fandoms, like Ong’s Hat and Polybius. It is the Tumblr version of “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical,” a crowdsourced musical inspired by the Ratatouille movie. TikTokers produced their own songs, dances, makeup looks, set pieces, and even a fake Playbill poster for the show.
The premise of Goncharov stemmed from a Tumblr post of a pair of knockoff boots from a now-deactivated account.
From there, the joke took on a life of its own.
There’s a Borgesian undertone to the Goncharov LARP and the notion of imaginary fandoms. It reminds me a bit of Borges’ metafictional 1940 story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”: A secret society crafts an elaborate hoax to convince everyone of the existence of an imaginary world, going so far as to produce documents, artifacts, and lore to lend credence to the idea. Over time, the hoax is subsumed into “reality.” That story, of course, is way more nefarious than the lighthearted, meme-y instincts powering the Goncharov fervor. It’s fitting that “the greatest mafia movie ever made” only exists in our collective imagination. — Terry Nguyen