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The failure of The American New Group


Early filming with my brother
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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When I began filming with my brother, Adolfas, as soon as we arrived in New York, we... our intention was to make a documentary, documentary film on... exile or how one really feels to be, how it really feels to be in exile, and that, what we... the footage what we filmed, his involvement became very short because he was called into the army.

We thought we were just practising, trying to master, you know, the, you know, the camera and lighting and we did not take that material seriously, that filming. The idea was to make a documentary film. It was, his idea was, the plan was disrupted and became sidetracked by his being called into the army. So then I went slightly in... different like a more personal direction, and only in around '59 we again picked up the idea and that's where I wrote the script of Guns of the Trees. We thought each time maybe... it was in the air, to make now, the first feature, you know, film. We knew that it won't be, you know, very much commercial, but it will be... at least a feature; and around in the way we wanted. But I said I will make, he will help me on my first and I help him on his first, and then we are on our own, so I make Guns of the Trees and Adolfas made Hallelujah The Hills, which of course, was much more successful for that sort of public and critically etc.

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: New York, Guns of the Trees, Alleluia the Hills, Adolfas Mekas

Duration: 2 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008