Where does kino come from?
In reference to cinema, kino is a shortening of the German kinematograph, meaning “motion-picture projector” and related to English's own cinematography. Dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, both terms are rooted in the ancient Greek kinema, "movement" or "motion." In contemporary German, Polish, Russian, and other Slavic languages, the shortened form kino has popularly come to mean “film,” “movie theater," or “cinema.”
In 1929, Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov prefaced his silent film Man with a Movie Camera with a message calling for “the creation of an authentically international absolute language of cinema—ABSOLUTE KINOGRAPHY.” Using what he called the “kino-eye” of the camera, Vertov employed innovative techniques of montage, split-screen shots, and double exposures to create what he aimed to be a kinography, a kind of grammar of cinema entirely unlike that of theater or literature.
Over the years, film buffs and scholars have made references to kino-eye and Absolute Kinography, but it wasn’t until around 2015 that Reddit and 4chan users began adopting Vertov’s kinography, and the shortened kino, as pretentious, tongue-in-cheek terms for films at the highest tier of cinema—creating a cinematic hierarchy, with kino at the summit, followed by cinema, film, movie, and flick at the bottom.
In a Reddit discussion on the social-media adoption of the term, one commenter trolled an anonymous user’s list of motion pictures by ranking them into "appropriate" categories. The kino films are all foreign and range in date from the 1920–50s. Mean Girls (2004) was rated a “flick,” demoted to the lowest level.
One of the most popular contributions to the Reddit discussion of kino makes reference to the joking patrician-plebeian social labels used on social media sites like 4chan. A “cultured patrician” is one who only watches kino—“the most obscure foreign films you can find,” as it was put in 2016—while “film is for plebs and movies or flicks are just laughable.”
In contrast to kino’s ironic usage on some social media boards, Kino, with a capital K, is the name of a serious film movement starting in 1999. With communities all over the world, the Kino movement challenges professional and amateur filmmakers to create a no- to low-budget short film in 48 hours or less.
In a meaning entirely unrelated to cinema, kino can also refer to "intimate or seductive touch," a suggested gambit by the leaders of the “pick-up artist” (PUA) community, who also refer to themselves as the “seduction community.” This kino is an abbreviation of kinesthetics, a word from the 1890s denoting the sensation of muscle movement. In some contexts, kinesthetics has come to signify the sense of touch more broadly (e.g. kinesthetic learning is learning through touch and movement).
An early use of kino as “seductive touch” appears in “Tony’s How to Lay Girls Guide,” first published online in 2000 and updated successively until 2013. Under the heading “Kinaesthetics (aka kino),” the guide describes a simple kino tactic for getting girls: “…hug them, touch their hand sporadically and in A NON THREATENING WAY, that is, not like the desperate pervert we all are.”
Since the 2000s, PUA communities have propagated online and circulated various resources guiding men on how to use kino to pick up women.
Who uses kino?
As its many senses make clear, kino’s use entirely depends on context.
Primary users of "top-tier movies" kino are Reddit and 4chan members with an understanding of the social structure on their platforms. Specific boards like Reddit’s /r/television, /r/movies, and /r/moviescirclejerk, as well as 4chan’s /tv/, are where kino thrives. Users may employ subgenres of kino, including capekino (kino-quality superhero movies) and telekino (kino TV shows).
Users of capital-K Kino are professional and amateur filmmakers and people with a serious, educated interest in cinema. Academics specializing in film studies and media culture may know about the movement—and would likely be aware of Kino’s deeper history and roots, including Soviet filmmaker Vertov’s “Absolute Kinography.”
Finally, the main user-group for kino as “seductive touch” are men who create PUA materials or consider themselves members of the community. Leading PUAs include Ross Jeffries, David Wygant, and Carlos Xuma.
Kino is not to be confused with keno, a lottery and casino game.
Watch it lad. Its unironically kino
Anonymous, 4chan, April 2018
Yet, Kino is as much a social movement as it is a film movement. [...] There are Kino cells in England, France, Germany, Morocco, Israel, Australia, Burkina Faso—and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Mariah Phillips, Tribeca Film, December 2013
We met at a hole-in-the wall bar close to my house (good logistics). I arrive about 15 mins late with no remorse nor apology. Gave her a hug, and ordered a drink. Started a conversation, and started gradual kino escalation.
Xhaka-Laca, Reddit, March 2018