No wave cinema was a Colab-sponsored boom (1976–1985) in underground filmmaking on the Lower East Side of New York City. Its name, much like its cousin no wave music, was a stripped-down style of guerrilla filmmaking that emphasized mood and texture above other concerns.
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 both underground film, spawning 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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.