Remember that old Martin Scorsese movie, Goncharov? From 1973, with the Russian and Italian mobsters duking it out in Naples? If you don’t, that’s because it was never made—but the internet would tell you a different story. The made-up film exploded in popularity this week on Tumblr and Twitter, where users have constructed media and fandom around a movie that never existed in the first place.
Goncharov’s story started last summer, when a since-deleted Tumblr account posted a misprinted tag from some boots they’d bought online, which read, “Martin Scorsese Presents Goncharov.” The user complained that the movie didn’t exist, prompting a reply that went viral on the platform: “This idiot hasn’t seen Goncharov.”
Of course, no one had seen Goncharov. The tag, as another Tumblr user deduced, was meant to say Gomorrah, a 2008 Italian movie Scorsese attached his name to for its U.S. release. But the seeds were sown, and the Goncharov fandom was born, collaboratively crafting not only the movie itself, but its legacy as a film.
The “film” follows the titular Goncharov, a Russian mafia boss who finds himself in Naples with his wife (or fiancee?) Katya. The two find themselves in conflict with the Russian mob, the Italian mob, and with each other—apparently, Katya betrays Goncharov in the end, a subversion of tropes for women in mafia movies that film buffs still admire today. The movie has a running motif of clocks, a whole lot of homoerotic subtext, and commentary on the Cold War politics of the time.
But again, it doesn’t actually have any of those things—it doesn’t exist. Still, it’s behaving like a real movie anyway, with plenty of users wishing they could actually watch it, creating fan art, and writing stories featuring the characters (over 350 works of fan fiction for Goncharov have been posted to Archive of Our Own since November 19). One Tumblr user even composed a genuinely beautiful original theme for the film—though of course, they passed it off as if the movie had always existed. “All this talk about Goncharov but I don’t see anybody posting the soundtrack??? Like how are you gonna talk about this movie without the music,” they wrote.
This is all the product of Goncharov’s latest viral moment, which came earlier this week when new pieces of fake media around the film started popping up across social media. On Twitter, an AI account generated stills from the movie, and on Tumblr, a fake poster made the rounds, establishing a cast including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Cybill Shepherd, and giving the film a catchy tagline: “Winter comes to Naples.”
Meanwhile, Goncharov’s plot was being reconstructed guerilla-style across platforms. One user would throw out an imagined detail, another would repeat or riff on it, and so on until it became canon. The most widely accepted facts about Goncharov—or “Gonchlore,” as some call it—were compiled by Tumblr user tsscat. Peruse at your leisure.
Even Tumblr itself is getting in on the Goncharov action. Its Tuesday newsletter was entirely Goncharov-themed, highlighting some of the most iconic moments from the film. “If you’re into the best mafia movie ever made, then we’ve got one or two soundtracks, scripts, posters, discourse, thematic discussion, character bios and analysis, iconic quotes, and fan art of that kiss scene. And we think you might just like ’em,” reads the newsletter. “So let’s keep this forgotten masterpiece in the spotlight—after all, next year’s the 50th anniversary.”
So maybe it doesn’t matter that Goncharov never existed beyond a misprinted shoe. Maybe the movie, even without a second of screen time, can still be experienced through the culture that now surrounds it. Maybe an inspired filmmaker will even bring the movie to life someday, reverse engineering a piece of media fandom first, content second.