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Early experiences of film


Keeping a diary from the age of four
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I started keeping a diary when I was like four years old, drawings... drawings. Then, when I started learning to write, that was before I went to school, I started writing, very simple, you know. 'My father took the cow to the bull' or things like that or, you know, 'it was raining today, my father went to the market' my diary was very down-to-earth. It was not young Anais Nin diary.

[Q] Did you, I mean, did you read any diaries, did you, I mean where did the idea of doing that come from?

No, no. My older brothers, two brothers, were interested somehow in a strange farmer's way, in literature and in poetry and when they went to the primary school the tradition... they introduced a tradition which later I continued, to publish like a, at least twice a month, like four-page little newsletter, like a... in which the school news, local news and poetry, a lot of poetry that they wrote was published in that little newsletter. So, as a child I was watching them writing, it's all done by hand, by hand of course, and like maybe edition of ten, or something like that, each one reproduced by hand. And I think that may have been an inspiration, sort of, the idea, that I'm not so sure, I am not so sure at all where that came from.

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: diary, poetry, school, local news

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008