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80 Wooster Street

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Founding of Anthology Film Archives: building up the Archive
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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We had to go in already 1971, in 1970 when we began looking for the best possible prints for the films that we had voted into Essential Cinema Repertory, we discovered that many of those films, nobody knows where the originals are, or they're fading or they're shrinking, or we had to go into film, we started film preservation department which became very, very important because until 1970 many films made in the 1930s, 1940s sort of held the color and, but around 1970 already they had reached the point when they had began shrinking, fading etc. So we had to focus going to immediately into film preservation. Then when we moved to Wooster Street we had also to go the video was already going strong and we introduced the video department that Shidea Kokobota, I invited her to be the curator of the video. And since we had no more Essential Cinema Repertory committee to select new films to add to the collection, I had to slowly open, but cinema continued, I opened also two programs of new works. Which means I went back into my irresponsible permissiveness which continues today, and today it's more complicated because as the world- world- cinemas of various countries became very active, but the outlets like in New York or United States practically disappeared so we became also the outlet, the house for various national cinemas around the world for a little sort of surveys and there are no other places for them to do that because those little festivals, many of them, most of them are curated and supported by, you know we had the Cuban- first Cuban film festival after 30, 40 years and they curated, when we had Filipinos, Filipino or Greece, Greek festivals they, they program because we cannot program them. We cannot curate because we don't know. We are not there; we don't know what's happening there. So we have very open policy and so that there is a great variety, at the house of the, I don't know what. Ironically, almost that here is a place created for the avant-garde film and it's we, it's I, it's we who went to the pains of getting the building, renovating that cost us million point seven and we're still paying debts. We're still owing to the banks 250,000. Here we are the avant-garde helping the commercial cinema and they're not helping us because some of the commercially minded independents are using us and we're helping them, we're nice people, we're open, we're helping. They don't help us but we don't care about that, we help 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.

Duration: 4 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010