Technical sheet

A person who dies without a name is like a story without an ending

creative documentary - 80'/52’ - spring 2020 - in development - 4k

directors: Valentina Cicogna and Mattia Colombo
produced by: Jump Cut (IT)


PURE UNKNOWN is how anthropologists define the nameless corpses that arrive each year at Labanof, the Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and Dentistry in Milan. Located in the underground of the Institute of Legal Medicine, Labanof has been founded by Dr. Cristina Cattaneo, who put together a small group of archeologists, biologists and anthropologists to take care of these unidentified bodies or bone fragments that have been discovered and then sealed in zinc containers.

Cristina and her team have set themselves the task of weaving together the threads of these remains, these stories fragmented into bones or personal effects, so that none of those lives will be lost forever; be it a murdered prostitute buried in the 1990s, a martyr who died in the 15th century, or an African refugee swallowed up and then spat out by the Mediterranean Sea.

Sometimes Cristina and her team achieve an ending to the stories of those remains. They find a name, and then a home, a family waiting for them. And sometimes they don’t. However, they try to prove that our society has the responsibility to take care of “the last” of our dead, the ones who died alone, far from home. They are always motivated by the same ethical and political belief: “We discovered what we know about past societies thanks to the way they treated their dead; so, what kind of Europe will the way we treat our dead ones tell to future societies?” The film PURE UNKNOWN seeks to answer this question.

Selected at:

PREMIO SOLINAS 2017 - Finalist
WHEN EAST MEETS WEST 2019: Pitching forum