This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about influencers and internet culture. You can sign up here. In our column, Niche Drama, we discuss online community micro dramas.
Tumblr’s new favorite movie is a 1973 Martin Scorsese mafia drama called Goncharov that doesn’t exist. Let us explain.
In August 2020, Tumblr user zootycoon posted a photo of knockoff boots they bought online that had a label promoting a nonexistent movie on the tag.
“THE GREATEST MAFIAMOVIE EVER MADE, MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS GONCHAROV,” it reads. “A FILM BY NATTED JWHJO715 ABOUT THE NAPLES MAFIA.”
The post recirculated in August 2021 and began a major resurgence in October 2022 that is only reaching its peak a month later.
Another Tumblr user named dogsuffrage pointed out three weeks ago that Goncharov was probably a misspelling of the 2008 crime drama film Gomorrah by director Domenico Procacci. The poster of the 2008 film mentions a Scorsese endorsement and a declaration from a Boston Herald writer that it is the “greatest mafia movie ever made.”
“this idiot hasn’t seen goncharov,” user abandonedambition wrote in response, which gave the fake movie another boost.
And so began the rich textual analysis of Goncharov. Tumblr is often home to film, literary, and other media discussions since fans, be they of Minecraft YouTubers, supernatural television shows, or 19th-century vampire fiction, gather to dissect and discuss their favorite works. They did it again with Goncharov, this time creating a fake plot and controversies through memes and text posts. Pretending you’ve seen it is key.
“Imagining trying to explain Goncharov to a non internet person. Well it's a homoerotic 1970s film about a Russian-Italian mafia that never existed,” one Tumblr user wrote in a post. “People are adding bits of canon on according to their own tastes like it's arthuriana. It came from a shoe.”
Basically, the movie follows a mafia boss named Goncharov who lives in Naples after leaving Russia. He’s in a strained relationship with a woman named Katya, who points a gun at him in or near a boat. Katya is friends (or maybe something more?) with a woman named Sofia. Goncharov might also be entangled with a man named Andrey, a frenemy. Clock symbolism appears throughout, suggesting Goncharov is running out of time. Spoiler: He dies after a betrayal.
Alex, a 26-year-old artist in Prague who asked to keep their last name private for professional reasons, told BuzzFeed News that they created a fake poster for the movie in Photoshop a few years after first seeing the original Goncharov shoe picture.
“It was meant for my mutual followers as an inside joke and I thought it was going to get like 10 likes, but it completely blew up,” they said. “I’ve made a few other fake posters, like for a Taxi Driver sequel, but this has been the biggest one.”
Tumblr user tsscat compiled a “Goncharov Lore Masterpost,” listing all the known theories and plot lines, which was edited to say “BUZZFEED DO NOT MINE THIS POST FOR CONTENT” at the top after BuzzFeed News requested to chat with them about it. So we’ll just link that here.
So far users have created homoerotic gifsets, referenced other media, composed an original score, made fake DVD boxes, sparked discourse about whether the character is a “girlboss,” and invented a trilogy of books that the movie is based on. Discussion has spread to Twitter and Letterboxd.
The fake movie cast, per the poster, is stacked with icons of cinema:
Robert de Niro as Goncharov
Al Pacino as Mario Ambrosini
Harvey Keitel as Andrey "The Banker" Daddano
Gene Hackman as Valery Michailov
John Cazale as Joseph "Ice Pick Joe" Morelli
Cybill Shepherd as Katya
All-in-all, the Goncharov craze is evidence of the unique power of Tumblr’s creative, collaborative minds.
“Love to be on a website where I can join such hit 2022 fandoms as ‘century old public domain novel being read very slowly’ and ‘half-century old mafia film that does not actually exist,’” wrote one user, in reference to the site’s former Dracula obsession.
“i know some people hate the joke and that’s fine but i am deeply fascinated by this site’s ability to spin an entire narrative so quickly and come up with consistent ideas and jokes and character arcs and throughlines it’s such an interesting way to tell a story and i genuinely really dig it,” another said in a post.
Tumblr may be just as fraught with discourse as Twitter is, but Goncharov never could have happened on the bird app.