A refugee from post–World War II Europe who immigrated to the US in 1949, Jonas Mekas (1922–2019) became one of America's foremost champions of independent cinema and one of its most innovative filmmakers. An admired poet in his native Lithuania, Mekas began recording his life on film shortly after his arrival in New York. Through his work as the author of the Village Voice’s “Movie Journal” column, editor of Film Culture magazine, and founder of Anthology Film Archives and the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, Mekas played a vital role in the promotion of avant-garde and independent films. His early films, Guns of the Trees and The Brig, challenged the structure of traditional narrative filmmaking. He is best known for his “diary films,” including Walden (Diaries, Notes, and Sketches); Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania; and As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty. His films, writings, and the institutions he built have influenced generations of filmmakers, poets, artists, musicians, critics, and scholars.
In Jonas Mekas: Interviews, volume editor Gregory R. Smulewicz-Zucker collects eighteen interviews covering almost sixty years of the filmmaker’s career. Mekas discusses his remarkable life as a refugee from Nazi- and Soviet-occupied Lithuania, his role as one of the major figures in the development of the American avant-garde, and his thoughts about his own work. In conversation with scholars, journalists, and other prominent artists, Mekas speaks of his passion for artistic expression and uncompromising vision for a liberated cinema. These interviews preserve Mekas’s voice so that it might speak to future generations of artists and intellectuals.