In March, our cinema will focus on Jonas Mekas, godfather of the New American Cinema.

Four films, some screened on 16mm, that place both the maker and the medium in retrospect. A depiction of diverse themes: war, migration, degeneration, displacement, experimental film on itself and portraiture of artists. Films that do not necessarily overlap in theme, but rather illuminate the several aspects of Mekas’ films. A broad portrayal of his zeitgeist and experiences, offering Mekas’ films a timeless character. Everyone is given the opportunity to identify with Jonas Mekas’ films.

This grant director and artist deserves a thematic month, showcasing his 16mm projects in Kriterion. All through March you will be able to see his most revered works.

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972) | Screened on 16mm

As Mekas describes it: “The film consists of three parts. The first part is made up of footage I shot with my first Bolex, during my first years in America, mostly from 1950–1953. It shows me and my brother Adolfas, how we looked in those days; miscellaneous footage of immigrants in Brooklyn, picnicking, dancing, singing; the streets of Williamsburg.
    “The second part was shot in August 1971, in Lithuania. Almost all of the footage comes from Semeniškiai, the village I was born in. You see the old house, my mother (born 1887), all the brothers, goofing, celebrating our homecoming. You don’t really see how Lithuania is today: you see it only through the memories of a Displaced Person back home for the first time in twenty-five years.
    “The third part begins with a parenthesis in Elmshorn, a suburb of Hamburg, where we spent a year in a forced labor camp during the war. After the parenthesis closes, we are in Vienna where we see some of my best friends—Peter Kubelka, Hermann Nitsch, Annette Michelson, Ken Jacobs. The film ends with the burning of the Vienna fruit market, August, 1971.”

Lost Lost Lost 

No figure appears more firmly rooted in both the American avant-garde and downtown New York than Jonas Mekas. Yet Lost Lost Lost tells a very different story, one of exile, displacement, and longing. It was completed in 1976 out of footage shot during an almost 15-year span, from his arrival in New York in 1949 (as a postwar Lithuanian refugee) to his engagement with the budding independent film scene of the early 1960s. Assembled in a rough chronology, the cinematography evolves along with Mekas’ artistic community: The earliest scenes, taken in the immigrant enclave Williamsburg of cobbled streets, trolley tracks, and hand-lettered storefronts, echo the European art film of montage, while later moments shot in Manhattan and upstate sing with the expressive handheld camerawork of the New American Cinema. Frames flutter through anti-Vietnam War protests and cinematheque screenings, woodland romps and seaside pleasures.

Birth of a Nation | Screened on 16mm

One hundred and sixty appearances by avant-garde filmmakers and film activists from 1955 to 1996 make up this film with music by Wagner and Hermann Nitsch and vocals by Jean Houston.
“Why Birth of a Nation? Because the independents of cinema is a nation in itself. We are surrounded by a commercial cinema Nation same way as the indigenous people of United States or any other country are surrounded by the Ruling Powers. We are the invisible, but essential nation of cinema. We are Cinema.” 

Jonas Mekas Shorts Programme on 16 MM

1) Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol: “Friendships and Intersections” 
The pioneer of the American diary film presents footage of his avant garde colleague shot between 1963 and 1990.
2) Zefiro Torna or Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas
The life and work of Fluxus artist George Maciunas as seen in clips filmed between 1952 and 1978.