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Krakow 50th Anniversary Special: Jonas Mekas in Krakow

FNE Staff 2010-05-27

This year the Dragon of Dragons award, given by the Krakow Film Festival (May 31 - June 6) since 1998 to the eminent documentary and animated filmmakers, will go to the Lithuanian born experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas, called the "godfather of the American avant-garde cinema."

Mekas, the forerunner and the representative of the American film avant-garde will come to Poland to receive the award during the anniversary 50th edition of Krakow Film Festival. It will be his first visit to Krakow.

Jonas Mekas describes his work in the following way: "Since 1950 I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex or my Video camera and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year. On some days I shoot ten frames, on others ten seconds, still on others ten minutes. Or I shoot nothing...."

The festive presentation the Dragon of Dragon award to Jonas Mekas will take place on 1st June in Kijow.Centrum cinema. After the ceremony, there will be a screening of the Prize-winner's films, including:

  • Scenes from the life of Andy Warhol
  • Happy Birthday to John
  • This Side of Paradise
  • Zefiro Torna or Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (Fluxus)

During the festival week, there will be subsequent openings of the Mekas' films retrospective and his meetings with the audience.

THE RETROSPECTIVE OF JONAS MEKAS DURING THE 50TH KFF:

THE BRIG USA 1964, 68'

A film record of theatre performance staged in New York by the group called The Living Theatre, directed by Judith Malina and Julian Beck. The performance is based on an anti-military play by Kenneth H. Brown and presents one day of the life of prisoners tortured by their wardens. The recorded performance resembles a documentary made in a real prison (the film got the first prize at the festival in Venice in the documentary section), creating an impression of taking part in a cruel experiment.

SCENES FROM LIFE OF ANDY WARHOL. FRIENDSHIPS AND INTERSECTIONS, USA 1982, 37'

The film begins in 1966 with a concert of Velvet Underground, and finishes in 1987 with a votive Mass for Andy Warhol in St. Patrick's Cathedral. Between these events, Mekas presents Warhol not only at work or among famous personages, but also during private meetings with friends.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JOHN, USA 1996, 18'

The film shows the birthday of John Lennon, the party at Allen Klein's, music producer and Lennon and Yoko Ono's concert in Madison Square Garden. Dynamic, full of enthusiasm and music scenes contrast with the last sequence of the film: the vigil kept by the masses in Central Park after Lennon was assassinated.

THIS SIDE OF PARADISE. FRAGMENTS OF AN UNFINISHED BIOGRAPHY, USA 1999, 35'

The picture of the summer holidays, which Jackie Kennedy's and her sister Lee Radziwill's children spent in the seaside location called Montauk. Jacqueline Kennedy's sister hired from Andy Warhol one of the old houses where Jonas Mekas was invited with his video camera. The film is not only a record of carefree summer holidays, but above all, a picture of the idyll of childhood.

ZEFIRO TORNA: SCENES FROM LIFE OF GEORGE MACIUNAS) USA 1992, 34'

The film is devoted to George Maciunas, a Lithuanian artist, the founder of the Fluxus movement. The film includes, among others, scenes from 1950s, shot in his family home, artistic actions of Fluxus from 1960s, informal meetings of avant-garde artists as well as images from the hospital, shortly before Maciunas' death. From the outside of the frame, we hear the voice of Jonas Mekas reading his own notes about his friend, written during the last months of his life, and madrigal by Zefiro Torn Monteverdi, Maciunas' favourite composer.

LOST, LOST, LOST, USA 1976, 178'

Mekas described this film as depicting "the mood of an emigrant, who has not forgotten his home country yet, but who has not gained a new one." Two first parts are devoted to Lithuanian emigrants, who at the turn of 1940s and 1950s still live with hope of returning to their free country. The next parts are made after their leaving the limited society of the emigrants. In hope of assimilation, Mekas moves to Manhattan, where he records the city vibrant with life and the first common artistic enterprises with New York artists.

WALDEN, USA 1969, 180'

The first film diary by Mekas shows images shot from 1964 to 1968, arranged chronologically according to the sequence of seasons. The film's title, referring to the work by H.D. Thoreau, evokes the idea of an alternative to capitalist society, the community which in Mekas' film is made by the artists. Numerous portraits of the director's friends and acquaintances make up a private chronicle of life of the avant-garde, whose protagonists are, among others, Stan Brakhage, Allen Ginsberg, P. Adams Sitney, Jack Smith, Gerard Malanga, Hans Richter.

A LETTER FROM GREENPOINT, USA 2005, 80'

A record of Mekas' moving home from the SoHo district, where he spent almost thirty years, to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Mekas gets acquainted with the new place and its inhabitants, visiting neighbouring pubs, churches and streets, as well as meeting the editors of culture magazine "Brooklyn Rail". The artist considers this film his first real work made with a video camera, which becomes for him "an extension of eye and body"

AS I WAS MOVING AHEAD, OCCASIONALLY I SAW BRIEF GLIMPSES OF BEAUTY, USA 2000, 320'

In a work of imposing scale Mekas records banal moments of family happiness, private holidays, simple and everyday actions, life without dramatic turns and tensions. In what is seemingly insignificant, "tiny pieces of paradise" are hidden, which make up the sole important value in life or - as the director himself says - its essence.

13 FROM 365 DAY PROJECT, USA, 60'

Mekas, inspired by the collection of poems by Petrarca, Canzoniere, including 366 poems, shot 365 short films portraying each day of 2007. The films, which are the record of the author's private life, are dedicated to small, everyday pleasures, celebrating the beauty of life and tiny holidays discovered in commonness. Mekas made the films available, updating them every day via the Internet. 13 from 365 Day Project is a selection of 13 films from 30-hour material.

The Screenings' Schedule

Screening 1 - Kijów.Centrum: 1.06 / 18.00

  • Scenes from the life of Andy Warhol
  • Happy Birthday to John
  • This Side of Paradise
  • Zefiro Torna or Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (Fluxus)

Screening 2 - ARS Reduta: 2.06 / 17.30

  • Walden

Screening 3 - ARS Reduta: 3.06 / 17.30

  • As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty

Screening 4 - ARS Reduta: 4.06 / 17.30

  • The Brig

Screening 5 - ARS Reduta: 5.06 / 15.00

  • Lost, Lost, Lost

Screening 6 - Kino Pod Baranami: 5.06 / 19.30

  • 10 z 365 (Selection for the 365 Project)
  • A Letter from Greenpoint

* Jonas Mekas, American film-maker, artist, writer and poet, was born in 1922 in Lithuania. After the war he studied philosophy at the Meinz University, and in 1949 with his younger brother Adolfas immigrated to the USA. He settled down in New York, and soon after that his adventure with cinema began. In the famous film society Cinema 16 headed by Amos Vogel he came in touch with avant-garde cinema. His first films, records of his own life, he shot on the famous 16mm Bolex video camera, which he bought with borrowed money. Mekas is considered one of the most distinguished representatives of American avant-garde cinema, the so-called New American Cinema. In 1960s, with a group of other film-makers, among others Shirley Clarke, Stan Brakhagem Gregory Markopoulos and Lloyd Williams he founded two institutions, important for the avant-garde art - the Film-Makers' Cooperative (FMC) and Filmmaker's Cinematheque. The artist is the winner of numerous awards, among others, he was honoured with the Art and Literature Order by the French Culture Minister (1992) and the Film Critics Circle Award in Los Angeles for a significant contribution to American film culture (2007).

The press conference with Jonas Mekas, the winner of Dragon of Dragons award, will take place on 1st June at 12 o'clock in the International Cultural Centre (Rynek Główny 25).

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