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Losing funding for Anthology Film Archives


Founding Anthology Film Archives
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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The idea of the film... of the Anthology Film Archives was that it will be very select, it will establish a repertory of avant-garde independent and classic cinema, that will just keep running and running so that those who want to know more or less what has been achieved in cinema as an art 'till now could have some idea by seeing if we could... if we attempted to reduce it to a... we managed at the point that we ended our selection, film selection meetings, we had established a little film selection committee, we ended up with about 300 films.

Now, there was a need at that time already for such a selection, for such a... what we call the Essential Cinema Collection repertory. Around 1969, 1970 there was already so much demand across the country for programs of the avant-garde independent cinema that help was needed and because some of the people who were in distant cities in United States, very far from New York, or San Francisco, they had no occasion to see some of those films. They had no idea what really those films are about. They had heard, you know, that and that some titles, some names, so whenever they wanted to show one or two or three programs, they always called me or P Adams Sitney. And we finally got tired of preparing those programs we did it once, we did it ten times, we did it 30 times then we said, 'It's enough'. Why don't we instead prepare a list of what we think is important, what has been achieved in the avant-garde film and then when somebody asks for advice we just send them that list and say, 'Everything you... anything that is on this list is of importance for one or other reason and you can take any film and show, and that's it'. So, that is, at that point, and we did not want that list selected by me or just P Adams Sitney or some other one person, we thought there should be like four or five people, there should be more, more opinions. So we created a little committee of five filmmakers and film sort of historians, theoreticians and that is how that originated and those meetings and purchases of all of the films that we voted in into the repertory were purchased with the monies from Jerome Hill. He established a special film art foundation to support that.

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: Anthology Film Archives, P Adams Sitney

Duration: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010