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Finding time to sleep


Doing what nobody else is doing
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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A year and a half ago, Columbia University organised a sort of conference on Film Culture magazine, Andrew Sarris was there, P Adams Sitney, Peter Bogdanovich. And it was very strange because I'm somewhere else, I'm now at Anthology and actually even already after Anthology Filmmakers, and so Film Culture had began, sort of, you know, I realised that I have all those different lives that they're like peeling off like there was, you know, a life of Filmmakers Cinématique, very active through all that Warhol period, but that's peeled off, and then Anthology Film Archives that I mentioned, but then there was The Village Voice period, The Village Voice, The Movie Journal period and then Film Culture magazine. It was different lives, different, then, then came in at some point in '62 January, Filmmakers' Co-op... the New American Cinema Group and Filmmakers' Co-operative, so that strand goes there. But they're all around because they did what they had to do, all those activities and movements and procedures and processes and somebody else, I pulled out because I'm not, you know, I'm going somewhere else. And I feel that I'm very close now so leaving Anthology by itself, it's going, I don't have to be there, I can do my other work. So, I'm at the end of that also, I just have to do one more thing to build the library, which I'm going to build, for the paper, etc, materials because that's the original plan and it has to be completed. And that's what I have done in every case when the Filmmakers' Co-operative was ready to go by itself, there were enough people that knew, the procedures were established, I pulled myself out. The same at the Newsreel Group. You know I was there for the first four, five meetings and when it was going by itself, okay, goodbye. So, what I'm really trying, or maybe as I'm looking back, to say, is that I'm not interested to do or get involved or spend my time on anything that somebody else can do. So I start, okay, because nobody else, there was no other film magazine, so I started it, so okay. There was no film distribution for the independents so I started that, there was no exhibition from Filmmakers' Cinématique, I started that. And in every case, I started it because nobody else is doing it and it has to be done, or film preservation, film preservation, avant-garde independent film preservation in which I'm still involved, that I'm still very much involved because nobody else is doing it it has to be done. Once it is set up, somebody else gets excited and picks up and is doing, I don't have to be there and I go somewhere else. That's in my nature, that's more or less, so I have no idea where I will be next.

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: Film Culture, The Village Voice, The Movie Journal, Filmmakers Cinématique, Filmmakers' Co-operative, Anthology, Columbia University, Andrew Sarris, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Bogdanovich

Duration: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008