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P Adams Sitney, one of my oldest friends


My debt of gratitude to Jerome Hill
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Jerome Hill came from the... from St Paul, lived on same street as Scott Fitzgerald, actually next door, Summit Avenue, and came from the family of railroad builders that built railroads between St Paul to California and became very, very rich. So, he came from a very rich family and he went into the arts when all his brothers went into the businesses and they did not take him seriously. He went... he studied architecture, painting, music and worked in theatre decor and left several... worked with Wilder, the composer Wilder, what's his first name? The sound compositions. And then he went into the cinema.

He began with Carl Gustav Jung, decided to make biography on him and after, like, two weeks kicking around and filming and producing some footage, which I later edited into a film, he decided that Jung was not photogenic enough and he went to Africa to see Albert Schweitzer and made a very well-known documentary film on Albert Schweitzer in Africa and made several others other films in between. And his most important film is Film Portrait, his autobiographical film that traces his childhood and his work and progress in life and cinema. And it's very important in one aspect: that it reflects also very well that's the kind of rich societies, the background that he comes from.

In any case, at some point in '57, I think, when I was editing already Film Culture somehow I needed money to continue and I think it was Willard Van Dyke who was already the head of the Museum of Modern Art film department, I think, suggested that I talk to Jerome Hill because he understands being a film-maker himself and he will understand it and help me, which he did and always when... that was the beginning. Whenever Film Culture really needed money he always came to help us. And later, when the Film-makers' Cooperative was real at the beginning very, very broke, he was... also contributed money and, of course, he was... without him Anthology Film Archives would never come into existence. It's all, you know. This man is... I think, in the whole history of... in that sort of... that I participated in of the avant-garde experimental independent cinema between '50 and now, I have not known anybody else as generous and understanding and selfless, financial helper to the avant-garde. Many, many things that I really don't know where the avant-garde film would be without Jerome Hill because, indirectly, all those organisations that he helped... helped to sustain, you know, the movement. It's so that's in a capsule, that was Jerome Hill.

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, set up film collectives, the Anthology Film Archive, published filmzines and made hundreds of films, all contributing to his title as 'the godfather of American avant-garde cinema'. He emigrated to America after escaping from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1945.

Listeners: Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for "Film Comment" magazine and "Sight and Sound" magazine. Her book, "Taxi Driver", was published in 2000 in the British Film Institute's Film Classics series. Her chapter on "America: The Modern Era" is part of "The Critics Choice" published by Billboard Press, 2001, and her critical essays are included in many anthologies, mostly recently in "Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank" published by Scalo.

She wrote for "The Village Voice" weekly from 1987 into 2001 both as a film and a television critic. She also wrote a column for the "Village Voice" titled "Art and Industry" which covered American independent filmmaking. Her first weekly film criticism job was at the "SoHo Weekly News". Her writing has also appeared in "Art Forum", the "New York Times", the "New York Daily News", the "LA Weekly", "Millennium Film Journal", "US Harpers Bazaar" and many other magazines. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online.

She started her professional life as an actress, appearing most notably on Broadway in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and in avant-garde films, among them Michael Snow's "Wavelength", Andy Warhol's "Couch", and Jonas Mekas' "Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches".

Her own avant-garde film, "In the Bag" (1981) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Friends of Young Cinema Archives in Berlin.

She was the video and film curator of "The Kitchen" from 1983-1987.

She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from N.Y.U. in cinema studies. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in both the undergraduate and the MFA graduate programs, and lectures frequently at museums, media centers, and academic institutions. In 2003, she received the School of Visual Arts' art historian teaching award.

Tags: Film Portrait, Jerome Hill, Carl Gustav Jung, Albert Schweitzer, Willard Van Dyke

Duration: 4 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010