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The politics of survival


Communist tactics breed opposition
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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How can you join the communist organisations or groups if your friends have been deported to Siberia, if one third of your classmates, friends, have been arrested and deported with their parents, and I knew their parents and I knew them and I've... and they have done nothing, so how can you then support or join in? So, of course, immediately, and I think that was one of the main mistakes made, you know, history and all the books tell that, too, of the Soviets, of the communist tactics at that point and that... those countries, that they deported people without, I mean, just because they were maybe doing better in their lives, in their farms, in their businesses and their work. Instead of leaving them there and promoting, you know, communist ideas and, you know, as soon as you begin deportations and arrests and, for no reason, just for political, for total reasons, immediately you set the population against, and that's what they did and all, and that was the beginning of the downfall of the Soviet Union. So it was just very, very simple, practical, down-to-earth kind of reaction to what was happening around us.

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: Siberia, Soviet Union

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008