In April 2022, French art lovers joined the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Jonas Mekas. The series of events dedicated to the artist’s centenary began in Paris and lasted from 13-30 April. The French Cinematheque presented the largest jubilee retrospective of Mekas’ films in Europe, alongside a supplementary educational programme. On 14 April, an exhibition of photolithographic images by Mekas was opened at The Film Gallery in the French capital. Films by Jonas and Adolfas Mekas were screened at the Grenoble Cinematheque on the same day. In the summer and autumn, Southern France is set to pick up the baton of Mekas’ centenary events.
The work of Jonas Mekas: for experts and those only just discovering him
“A retrospective of Jonas Mekas’ films at the French Cinematheque is the largest panorama of films dedicated to the centenary of Jonas Mekas in Europe: from 13 to 30 April, 34 long and short films will be shown – both by Mekas himself and by other filmmakers dedicated to him! We are delighted that Mekas’ films will be presented not only in abundance but also in-depth: film screenings will be followed by a discussion, which will allow viewers to delve deeper into the legacy of one of the most prominent contemporary film poets and his aesthetic and philosophical world,” said Asta Visminaitė, project manager at the Lithuanian Culture Institute who coordinates the international programme of Jonas Mekas’ centenary events.
According to Austė Zdančiūtė, the Lithuanian cultural attaché in France, Jonas Mekas is undoubtedly known in France. “This is not the first retrospective of his films here. Mekas’ work is well known to people interested in art and culture. Jonas Mekas had many friends in Paris – artists and not only. His name is probably less familiar to the younger generation. That is why it is particularly gratifying that alongside the retrospective, the French Cinematheque has developed an educational programme for young people,” said the attaché.
On 16 April, the roundtable discussion dedicated to Mekas’ work was attended by Mekas’ friend, director, film curator and distributor Pip Chodorov, film critic, historian and programmer Émeric de Lastens, and researcher of film history and aesthetics Cécile Tourneur. On 20 April, the French Cinematheque hosted an event in which Patrice Rollet, a French philosopher, essayist and film critic, and Bernard Benoliel, Cinematheque’s cultural and educational project manager, discussed Mekas’ work.
From 14 April – to 7 May, the exhibition To New York With Love held at The Film Gallery in Paris featured 21 photolithographs, a series created by Jonas Mekas in 2009, presented in the format of a cinefilm. Mekas’ film As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses Of Beauty (2000) was also shown. At the opening of the exhibition, the second volume of Jonas Mekas’ diaries, I Seem to Live. 1969-2011, The New York Diaries, published by Spector Books, was presented. Sebastian Mekas, son of Jonas Mekas, and Pip Chodorov, took part in the event.
On the same day, the films Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972) by Jonas Mekas and Going Home (1971) by Adolfas Mekas were screened at the Grenoble Cinematheque.
Poetry and films by Jonas Mekas reach the south of France
Events celebrating the centenary of Jonas Mekas will continue in Marseille and Cassis in the summer and autumn: scheduled are workshops on the French translation of Mekas’ poetry, readings, and film screenings in cinemas and outdoor spaces.
“When I offered my partners in Marseilles to collaborate on putting together a programme of Jonas Mekas’ centenary events, there was no one whose eyes did not ignite. Whether one knew Mekas or not, everyone has some connection to his films or writing. For example, Julie Chenot, director of the Camargo Foundation, shared stories from the time that Jonas Mekas and filmmaker, co-founder of the Camargo residence Jerome Hill spent together. The director of the Marseille Poetry Centre had found a book of Mekas’ poetry in Lithuanian in the centre’s library and saw it as a sign that those poems had to be translated into French,” shared Austė Zdančiūtė, Lithuanian Cultural Attaché in France.
The international project Jonas Mekas 100! is dedicated to the centenary year of the birth of the avant-garde filmmaker, film critic and poet Jonas Mekas in 2022. The programme, comprising over 50 various events, has been prepared by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the Lithuanian cultural attachés and the Estate of Jonas Mekas. Film screenings, exhibitions, video installations, concerts, poetry readings, discussion and thematic residency programmes, poetry translation workshops, publishing projects and other initiatives will take place in leading cultural institutions in many countries around the world. The programme is partially funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The Jonas Mekas 100! programme is available on the website www.jonasmekas100.com.