Cinema of Transgression

The Cinema of Transgression is a term coined by Nick Zedd in 1985 to describe a New York City-based underground film movement, consisting of a loose-knit group of like-minded artists using shock value and humor in their work. [1] [2] Key players in this movement were Zedd, Kembra Pfahler, John Waters, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Casandra Stark, Beth B, Tommy Turner, Richard Kern, and Lydia Lunch, who in the late 1970s and mid-1980s began to make very low-budget films using cheap 8 mm cameras.

Zedd outlined his philosophy on the Cinema of Transgression in "The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto", published under the name Orion Jeriko in the zine The Underground Film Bulletin (1984–90).[3]

Cinema of Transgression continues to heavily influence underground filmmakers. In 2000, the British Film Institute showed a retrospective of the movement's work introduced by those involved in the production of the original video films.[4]

List of notable films

  • Why Do You Exist (Nick Zedd, 1998)
  • You Killed Me First (Richard Kern, 1985)
  • Where Evil Dwells (David Wojnarowicz & Tommy Turner, 1985)
  • Raw Nerves: A Lacanian Thriller (Manuel Delanda, 1980)
  • Mommy, Mommy, Where's My Brian? (Jon Moritsugu, 1986)
  • Llik Your Idols (Angélique Bosio, 2007)
  • Wrecked on Cannibal Island (Casandra Stark, 1986)
  • Stigmata (Beth B., 1991)
  • Blank City (Celine Danhier, 2009)
  • Nymphomania (Tessa Hughes-Freeland & Holly Adams, 1993)


See also


  1. ^ Shock Value: New York’s underground ‘Cinema of Transgression’-Dangerous Minds
  2. ^ Sabin, Roger (2002). Punk Rock: So What?: The Cultural Legacy of Punk. Routledge. pp. 69–72. ISBN 9780203448403.
  3. ^ Zedd, Nick (1985). "The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto". Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  4. ^ Zedd, Nick (2000). "The Cinema of Transgression 1984–90".
  5. ^ MUBI


  • Sargeant, Jack (October 1995). Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression. ISBN 1871592291.

External links

Acid Western

Acid Western is a subgenre of the Western film that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s that combines the metaphorical ambitions of critically acclaimed Westerns, such as Shane and The Searchers, with the excesses of the Spaghetti Westerns and the outlook of the counterculture of the 1960s. Acid Westerns subvert many of the conventions of earlier Westerns to "conjure up a crazed version of autodestructive white America at its most solipsistic, hankering after its own lost origins".

Casandra Stark

Casandra Stark Mele is a New York City underground Icon, considered one of the "principal players in the Cinema of Transgression" (Sabin 1999). She made all her films in the 1980s and early 1990s under the name Casandra Stark. Since then she has added her real family name Mele to her professional name due to a deep connection she felt for her family roots. "Mele" is Italian for apple.

Casandra grew up in Wallingford, Connecticut with the first name Rosanne and still answers to "Ro". She is a dramatic vocalist and live performer as well as a painter and film maker.

Her films often featured the music of one of her bands such as Menace Dement and/or the Trees, a duo with guitarist and political scientist Frank Morales with whom Casandra has a child named Frankie.

Her film The Anarchists was aired on Manhattan cable Television in 1992 and features the music of Missing Foundation. It was

partly filmed in Naples, Italy (A city she refers to as Napoli) as well as New York.

Her film Parades of Crazy ranges from very surrealistic images of people marching slowly through a park wearing masks to a beach scene in black and white of Casandra herself and her friend Laura May wearing white gowns and splashing in the waves and floating in the tide.

Most of her films do not feature Casandra herself, however she starred in the title role of her Death of an Arabian Woman.

She authored six chapbooks one of which, Your World Not Mine, chronicles events in her life growing up an epileptic.

She has dedicated her talents to working with mentally challenged of the Lower East Side promoting creative outlets such as Coocooloco: An Anthology Of Creative Writings From The "So-Called Mentally Ill"; The Lower East Side And Beyond, a collection of poetry from community access, a creative workshop.

She went on to become a high school teacher in New York.

Chicago Underground Film Festival

Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF), founded in 1994, occurs each spring at various venues in Chicago, Illinois, USA.


First published as Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression by Creation Books in 1995 and subsequently republished as Deathtripping: The Extreme Underground by Soft Skull Press, Deathtripping is a book by Jack Sargeant which examines the New York based, post-punk underground film movement known as the Cinema of Transgression that formed around the manifesto written by underground filmmaker Nick Zedd. The loose-knit group of underground filmmakers included Richard Kern, Tommy Turner, Lydia Lunch, Beth B, Cassandra Stark, Joe Coleman and David Wojnarowicz, amongst others.

The book examines the work of the Cinema of Transgression filmmakers through lengthy interviews with directors, collaborators, musicians and actors associated with the movement. Alongside these the book features analyses of films, an overview of the history of the movement and its influences. It features an appendix of scripts by some of the filmmakers.

Following the publication of the book Jack Sargeant co-produced a VHS tape with the British Film Institute showcasing a number of these films.

The films Kill Your Idols (2006) and Blank City (2010) both feature Jack talking about the films and the writing of Deathtripping.

Jack Sargeant (writer)

Jack Sargeant (born 1968) is a British writer specializing in cult film, underground film, and independent film, as well as subcultures, true crime, and other aspects of the unusual. In addition he is a film programmer, curator, academic and photographer. He has appeared in underground films and performances. He currently lives in Australia.Since 1995 Sargeant has written and contributed to numerous books on underground film, including: Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression, about Cinema of Transgression filmmakers such as Richard Kern and Nick Zedd, Naked Lens: Beat Cinema, and Cinema Contra Cinema, a collection of essays on alternative film. He is the editor of the journal Suture, and has co-edited two volumes Lost Highways: An Illustrated History of the Road Movie (with Stephanie Watson) and No Focus: Punk on Film (with Chris Barber). In 2007 Deathtripping was republished by Soft Skull Press, this was followed by a re-printing of Naked Lens: Beat Cinema in 2008. In 2014 a collection of essays on the world of William Burroughs and associated artists such as Brion Gysin was published as Against Control by Swedish publisher Eight Millimetre. In 2016 Amok Books published Flesh and Excess: On Underground Film. He has contributed to numerous books on subjects ranging from Andy Warhol movies to road rage and car crash songs and his work has been included in collections such as Mikita Brottman's Car Crash Culture, Mendick & Harper's Underground USA, Wollen & Kerr's Autopia, among others.

He has also authored and edited true crime books including Born Bad, Death Cults, Bad Cop Bad Cop, and Guns, Death Terror'. These books have featured contributions from Monte Cazazza, Michael Spann, Andrew Leavold, John Harrison, Simon Whitechapel, Chris Barber, and others.

Sargeant has written introductions for Joe Coleman's Book of Joe and photographer Romain Slocombe's Tokyo Sex Underground.

He has contributed to publications such as Headpress as well as Panik, Electric Sheep, The Wire, Fortean Times and Bizarre magazine, as well as academic journals such as Senses of Cinema and M/C. Since 2008 he has written film reviews and a regular column for the Australian film magazine FilmInk focusing on unusual areas of film culture. He has also appeared as an occasional guest on ABC Radio National's MovieTime.

Between 2001–2003 he was film editor at large for Sleazenation. He has written cover notes for DVDs by various underground and independent filmmakers, including the British Film Institute's DVD release of Kirby Dick's film Sick: The Life And Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist and their Jeff Keen DVD box set. In addition he has contributed liner notes to the Throbbing Gristle TGV DVD box set.

As a public speaker Jack Sargeant has given numerous talks on a variety of subjects including the work of JG Ballard, William Burroughs, and many other subjects often related to subjects he has written about. Sargeant has appeared in numerous film and TV documentaries on culture and film, as well as having cameos in underground films. He has also appeared on a recording by the experimental group I/O.

He has promoted and organised shows for filmmakers and artists at the Horse Hospital in London and Cinematheque in Brighton, UK, and has also toured film festivals in America, Europe, and Australia, including the New York Underground Film Festival, the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Melbourne Underground Film Festival, Brisbane International Film Festival, and Sydney Underground Film Festival. In 2002 and 2003 he collaborated with Simon Kane on The Salon, an annual event that has featured performances by David Tibet, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and Cotton Ferox.Since 2008 he has been Program Director for the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, and in 2010 he curated the film program for Sydney Biennale.

Sargeant has been a frequent collaborator of art and theory group monochrom and founder Johannes Grenzfurthner. He got invited to Vienna as Q21/MQ artist in residence by monochrom in winter 2018.

Kembra Pfahler

Kembra Pfahler (born August 4, 1961 in Hermosa Beach, California, United States) is an American filmmaker associated with the Cinema of Transgression, a performance artist, rock musician, and film actress.

She is mostly known as the lead singer of the glam, punk, shock rock band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, and for the often nude and sexual nature of her art exhibits. Pfahler has been called the "godmother of modern day shock art" .

List of apocalyptic films

This is a list of apocalyptic feature-length films. All films within this list feature either the end of the world, a prelude to such an end (such as a world taken over by a viral infection), and/or a post-apocalyptic setting.

Meat pie Western

Meat pie western, also known as a kangaroo western is a category of Western-style films or TV series set in the Australian outback. The names are a play on the term Spaghetti Western. The category is important to differentiate more Americanised Australian films from those with a more historical basis, such as ones about bushrangers (also sometimes called bushranger films).

Nick Zedd

Nick Zedd (born 1958) is an American filmmaker and author based in Mexico City. He coined the term Cinema of Transgression in 1985 to describe a loose-knit group of like-minded filmmakers and artists using shock value and black humor in their work. These filmmakers and artistic collaborators included Richard Kern, Tessa Hughes Freeland, Lung Leg and Lydia Lunch. Under numerous pen names, Zedd edited and wrote the Underground Film Bulletin (1984–90) which publicized the work of these filmmakers. The Cinema of Transgression was explored in Jack Sargeant's book Deathtripping (Creation Books).

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. Sponsored by and associated with the artists group Collaborative Projects or "Collab", 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.

No wave

No wave was a short-lived avant-garde music and art scene that emerged in the late 1970s in downtown New York City. Reacting against punk rock's use of recycled rock and roll clichés, no wave musicians instead experimented with noise, dissonance and atonality in addition to a variety of non-rock genres, including free jazz and funk, while often reflecting an abrasive, confrontational and nihilistic worldview. In the later years of the scene, it adopted a more playful, danceable aesthetic inspired by disco, early hip hop, and world music sources.The term "no wave" was a pun based on the rejection of commercial new wave music. The movement would last a relatively short time but profoundly influenced the development of independent film, fashion and visual art.

Opera film

An opera film is a recording of an opera on film.

Richard Kern

Richard Kern (born 1954) is an American underground filmmaker, writer and photographer. He first came to prominence as part of the cultural explosion in the East Village of New York City in the 1980s, with erotic and experimental films like The Right Side of My Brain and Fingered, which featured personalities of the time such as Lydia Lunch, David Wojnarowicz, Sonic Youth, Kembra Pfahler, Karen Finley and Henry Rollins. Like many of the musicians around him, Kern had a deep interest in the aesthetics of extreme sex, violence and perversion and was involved in the Cinema of Transgression movement, a term coined by Nick Zedd.

Romanian New Wave

The Romanian New Wave (Romanian: Noul val românesc) is a genre of realist and often minimalist films made in Romania since the mid-aughts, starting with two award-winning shorts by two Romanian directors, namely Cristi Puiu's Cigarettes and Coffee, which won the Short Film Golden Bear at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival, and Cătălin Mitulescu's Trafic, which won the Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival later that same year.

Tessa Hughes-Freeland

Tessa Hughes-Freeland is a British-born experimental film maker, writer living in New York City. Her films have screened internationally in North America, Europe and Australia and in prominent museums and galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York; and the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin. She has collaborated on live multi-media projects with musicians like John Zorn and J. G. Thirlwell. She and Ela Troyano co-founded the New York Film Festival Downtown in 1984 and served as its co-directors until 1990. Hughes-Freeland later served as President of the Board of Directors of the Film-Makers Co-Operative in New York City from 1998-2001. She has published articles in numerous books, including “Naked Lens: Beat Cinema” and “No Focus: Punk Film,” and in periodicals including PAPER Magazine, Filmmaker magazine, GQ, the East Village Eye, and Film Threat.Hughes-Freeland works in a variety of formats and mediums, and her films have been shown in diverse venues, ranging from internationally prominent museums to seedy bars in gritty neighborhoods. Her work frequently confronts conventional perceptions of reality in daring and sometimes provocative ways. Hughes-Freeland's website describes her work as "confrontational, transgressive, provocative and poetic". The critic Jack Sargeant wrote that Hughes-Freeland "approaches filmmaking in a multiplicity of styles, ranging from classic narrative to experimental 'performances' and even a documentary."Hughes-Freeland was part of the No Wave Cinema movement that began in the mid-1970s on New York City's Lower East Side, which included Scott B and Beth B, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Steve Buscemi, and Vincent Gallo. In the 1980s, this morphed into the Cinema of Transgression, in which she and other Lower East Side artists and filmmakers created no-budget films and art that contravened prevailing conventions of American society and challenged established, "correct" cultural norms. Among the earliest admirers of her work were the controversial, celebrated late artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, who bought her a super 8 camera for her filmmaking, and the writer, critic and curator Carlo McCormick, whom she later married.


Transgression may be:

A Biblical transgression is a violation of God's Ten Commandments or other element of God's moral law; sin (1 John 3:4)

A legal transgression, a crime usually created by a social or economic boundary

In civil law jurisdictions, a transgression or a contravention is a smaller breach of law, similar to summary offence in common law jurisdictions.

A social transgression, violating a norm


Transgressive may mean:

Transgressive art, a name given art forms that violate perceived boundaries

Transgressive fiction, a modern style in literature

Transgressive Records, a United Kingdom-based independent record label

Transgressive (morphology), a form of verb in some languages

Transgressive phenotype, a phenotype that is more extreme than the phenotypes displayed by either of the parents

Transgressive segregation

Cinema of Transgression, film movement using shock value and humor

Transgressive art

Transgressive art is art that aims to transgress; i.e. to outrage or violate basic morals and sensibilities. The term transgressive was first used in this sense by American filmmaker Nick Zedd and his Cinema of Transgression in 1985. Zedd used it to describe his legacy with underground film-makers like Paul Morrissey, John Waters, and Kenneth Anger, and the relationship they shared with Zedd and his New York City peers in the early 1980s.

Underground film

An underground film is a film that is out of the mainstream either in its style, genre, or financing.

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