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Inspired to do headstands by a centenarian


The benefits of running
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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My athletic activities began with, already when I was like 17; I was in very poor, miserable health and until Year 12 or something. I don't know what diseases those were, but I spent, when I was five, six, seven or eight, I spent weeks and weeks in bed and I remember well, you know, vividly, the village women sitting, old women looking at me and they were very, very, how to put it? They had no pity. They, 'This poor boy, I think he will die', like, I used to get so angry! What are they talking? You know, I will show them.

[Q] Were you very thin?

And when I went to school, to the primary school first grade, they used to call me 'skeleton'. So, when I was already 16, 17, with my brother we got a book on Jiu-Jitsu and we studied, read it and we practiced everything in Jiu-Jitsu and we started also, and then in '33, after the Berlin Olympics, that was, I was 11, 12 we began practising all the, all the things that happened in Berlin. But what we really continued was the running. We did one, we marked up one kilometer and we, usually in the evening after all the work and everything done, we used to run and all the neighbours used to look and say, they're crazy, running. And I think that that, activity, that special running gave me, my body a certain kind of strength in any case, something that is still sustaining me today. I don't... for the last time, you know, it's been many years that I had to go to a doctor was when I got married, because they required that you go to the doctor. And after that, I never went to the doctor. I had to, you know, go in the last two years, I have some problems, but I would say that I'm in very good health and, which some of my friends envy.

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: illness, prediction, skinny, Berlin Olympics, Jiu-Jitsu, doctor

Duration: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008