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Communist tactics breed opposition


The political supervisor
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Each high school had assigned, was assigned a political... like a supervisor connected the party, seeing that nothing in the high school would take place that is against the communist party and the Soviet Union. So, and in our case it was a... woman, a Jew, a Jewish woman, about 40 years old and... Anything to drink?

[Q] No.


[Q] No.

One needs a lot of strength sometimes to....

[Q] I've never seen you do that.

We never talked much.

[Q] Yes.

But there are some things that are very difficult to talk about.

[Q] So shall we...

In any case, so there I am in the coat room where, you know, students leave their, you know, coats and hats and we have our names there and so I hang up, I put my cap there and there comes this, what are they called - politruk, this woman - and, of course, they know, we were, you know, in any event, of course they know that, where to look for hidden materials and that somebody may be, because they have, you know, they've sent many to Siberia, to jails for, they know all the tactics so she picks up my cap and looks in and finds the little news, the underground and the Soviet publications. So, she puts it back and she said, 'Burn them'. And she never reported me.

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.

Duration: 4 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008