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The explosion in film courses and demand for avant-garde films


The struggle to create a new outlet for our avant-garde films
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Now, here is a page on which I see January 7 '62, 8:00pm, 414 Park Avenue South and it is Amos Vogel who was running Cinema 16, myself, my brother, David Books, David Stone, Jack Carmin who was a lawyer, attorney, Stan van der Beek, Ron Rice, Mike Brothers-Burton, Ken Jacobs, Gregory Markopoulos, Rudy Berker, Ray Wisniewski, Louis Brigante, and Marzano, Robert Downey and Bob Hemps and Robert Breer. Really, it like the main the... the people working in the sort of avant-garde or film area at that time, so and, of course, Amos Vogel was there who was the only distributor, not the only, there was a woman by the name... there was a little, little distribution centre called Radim Films, that had, included some of the, some of the Curtis Harrington, Davis and Markopoulos, I think one film by Markopoulos. So, Amos Vogel, of course, at... did everything to advise us that its very unwise to create another distribution centre when there was already one that he was running, that there was no place, that there were no demand for that much work and of course we said, and then when we asked him why he did not distribute our films, why he refused oh... Stan Brakhage's Anticipation of the Night, he said that he has his principles and his standards and he cannot distribute this type of work. So that you know we should understand that, so that was the end of the discussion. We said, if you refuse Anticipation of the Night then and, and Stan van der Beek that's it, the vote we took was unanimous and, and Amos considers me his enemy till this day. So, very unwisely so because I... he did a great job to promote avant-garde film, for a decade when nobody else did anything and I always supported him and praised him and I'm still praising now. But he time had come and which he, even today, does not understand that that the times were changing, that there was a new generation of film-makers, making different kind of film and okay, there were no outlets, we'll create them and we created them.

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: Radim Films, Amos Vogel, David Books, David Stone, Jack Carmin, Stan van der Beek, Ron Rice, Mike Brothers-Burton, Ken Jacobs, Gregory Markopoulos, Rudy Berker, Ray Wisniewski, Louis Brigante, Jo Marzano, Robert Downey, Bob Hemps, Robert Breer, Adolfas Mekas.

Duration: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008