Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas

Actor, Director, Writer, Camera Operator, Director of photography, Editor


Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) was an innovative filmmaker, poet, and diarist from Lithuania. Born in the village of Semeniškiai, Mekas began making films in 1947 and immigrated to the United States in 1949. He is credited with creating the first diary films, which he referred to as “scrapbooks from the last century.”

In the 1950s, Mekas began working with filmmakers and artists to create avant-garde films. He was an early pioneer of the New American Cinema movement and co-founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, a distribution system for independent filmmakers. He also founded the Filmmakers Cinematheque, a screening venue, and the influential magazine Film Culture.

Mekas was an influential and prolific filmmaker; his works include The Brig (1963), Walden (1968), Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), Lost, Lost, Lost (1975), and Guns of the Trees (1961). He also experimented with video technology and was an early adopter of video art.

Mekas was a consistent champion of independent filmmakers and the avant-garde. He was a recipient of several awards including the 2001 Wexner Prize, the 2003 American Academy of Arts and Letters award, and the 2013 Berlin Film Festival’s lifetime achievement award.

Mekas’s works are often described as “experimental” and “cinematic poems.” He was an advocate for the “newest, freshest” techniques in filmmaking and was often praised for his ability to capture the beauty of everyday life. Mekas’s films often explored themes of memory, identity, and the passage of time.

In addition to his film work, Mekas was an accomplished poet. He wrote several volumes of poetry and published two books of diary-style writings. He was also a regular contributor to several publications, including The New York Times and Village Voice.

Mekas passed away in January 2019 at the age of 96. He is remembered as one of the most influential and innovative filmmakers of his generation. His works continue to inspire and influence filmmakers, poets, and artists today.