a documentary by Valentina Cicogna and Mattia Colombo

Italy; Switzerland; Sweden; 2023; 93’/52′; o.v. Italian, English; sbt English

Festivals & Prizes

19th Biografilm, Bologna 2023 – Audience Award, International Competition


Every night nameless bodies land in Dr. Cristina Cattaneo’s autopsy room. She calls them Pure Unknown. They are homeless, prostitutes, runaway teenagers. Lately, they have mostly been migrants, rejected by the Mediterranean Sea onto the shores of Italy. If all rights belong to the living, nothing is left to the dead. So what happens when the dead have lost their identity? In the face of this growing multitude, no one seems concerned about their right to dignity.
No one but Cristina.

  • Pure Unknown is the kind of social issue film that always attracts an audience (…) and deservedly so in the case of this empathetic work.(POV)
  • Directed with a welcome restraint, Pure Unknown is a documentary of great strength that looks at a common responsibility and at what, at a time of racist dehumanization, constitutes us.” (Le Polyester)
  • The magic which gave life to Pure Unknown isn’t just the result of Valentina Cicogna and Mattia Colombo joining forces, it’s also thanks to the relationship between the two directors and forensic anthropologist Cristina Cattaneo, who’s a professor at the University of Milan where she heads up the Medical-Legal Labanof Institute. Both incredibly determined and full of empathy, Cattaneo is a genuinely unique character. (Cineuropa)
  • Colombo and Cicogna’s film helps amplify her voice and makes a quiet but compelling case for action. (Eye for Film)


Valentina Cicogna, Mattia Colombo
Jump Cut (IT)

Amka Films Production (CH), Sisyfos Film Production (SE), RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera (CH)

With the support of:
Creative Europe MEDIA, MiC, Trentino Film Commission, Piemonte Doc Film Fund, Divisione Cultura Cantone Ticino, Eurimages