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Literary activity in Lithuania


The difference between immigrants and refugees
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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We signed up on a boat, cruising, with [USS] General [RL] Howze, France, and Sydney or Melbourne, somewhere there, and while we were waiting for to be called on the ship, somebody in Chicago, who knew us from Lithuania, and then, up there made papers, because you had to have, for anybody from displaced person camps to come to United States, somebody had to guarantee that they will give a job, that they will support you, etc. So, without us knowing even, they prepared papers for us and then we just received, you know, from the camp's office that we could go to United States. There are papers for you. So, okay, what, why not? I mean, makes no difference.

So, we came to New York, and it was sponsored actually by the United Nations Refugee Organisation. So, we were not, we were really actually correctly speaking, we're not immigrants, we are... we were brought in here and dumped by United Nations Refugee Organisation. And you know, knowing how... the way I see it, and I, you know, have said this many times in other, on other occasions, that if one is really very much rooted in one's place like I was in, I mean, in Nature, in the country, there, in that, in language, in the songs in Lithuania, then once you are uprooted then it makes no difference where you are, absolutely no difference. No my, usually, anecdote is that if you drop me in the desert and come back three days later, I will have my roots already in the desert, all over. Because it makes no difference because you're not home, because you're always there and it doesn't matter where you are. It's not the same with the, let's say, Italian immigrants. Italians, they were not uprooted, nobody deported them to America, they need to earn money for their families to send back to their families. So, they come on their own free, by their own choice and their countries are still there if they want, they can always go back, of course they miss it, and mothers cry, but they can always go. So it's, it's a completely different situation.

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: USS General RL Howze, United Nations Refugee Organization, Lithuania

Duration: 3 minutes, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008