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Acting and theatre


The politics of survival
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Germans took over Lithuania like in one day and there, because their decision I think of the... Stalin's decision was to fight somewhere deeper to permit Germans to, you know, they knew that they couldn't hold back the first wave of German attack, they could not hold, so they retreated. At that... at that point the Lithuanians thought, ah, and the same happened with Poles, that they could maybe now regain their independence, and so the Germans encouraged that idea, though of course, they knew that they will be in... it's like Iraq at this point. They are free and they're not free so that was the same situation. We were free and we were not free and so, it was clear that, you know, again from the information coming what Germans are doing in other occupied, you know, areas or, they tolerated the Baltic states sort of... more because it was agricultural area so and they needed farmers to be in... to continue producing food, you know, which Germans, the German army needed. So, they, they comparatively from the Germans situation, the Baltic countries suffered less than Poles that were German, the Germans insisted that certain areas of Poland really belonged to Germany and they sort of wiped out millions of Poles. I am not talking about Jews, I am talking about Poles. So it was a slightly different situation. We knew that it was only temporary and eventually they will do the same to Lithuania as what, you know. So it was, the politics were based on survival, it's no, not ideology at all, it was survival, either you live or you die.

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: Lituania, Poland, Baltic states, Iraq

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008