“In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets.”–Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas’ work as a filmmaker, curator, and critic has justifiably earned him the title “godfather of American avant-garde cinema.” The Chicago Underground Film Festival is proud to honor him with our Lifetime Achievement Award at this screening spanning his incredible 40-plus years creating and supporting visionary film.

15 min, video, 2001 USA

“I made this video June 23, 2001, as a letter for my good friend Penny Arcade who some days earlier had asked me why I love New York. I truly love New York! This letter to Penny Arcade is my love letter to New York.” (JM)

12 min, 16mm, 1964, USA Photographed by Jonas Mekas and Gregory Markopolous.

“The Independent Film Award for 1964 is presented to Andy Warhol. We see Andy among his leading stars, Baby Jane Holzer, Gerry Malanga, Ivy Nicholsen, and we see the the editor of Film Culture, Jonas Mekas, presenting the award: a basket of fruit – mushrooms, carrots and apples, bananas – which then, they all eat with great pleasure.” (JM)

STREET SONGS 10 min, 16mm, 1983, USA

“I filmed The Living Theatre’s ‘Mysteries’ in 1966, at the Festival de Cassis, organized by Jerome Hill. I didn’t like the results and I never released the film, but I always liked the segment based on McLow’s script. Maclow’s version differs slightly from The Living Theatre’s version. You can find MacLow’s script in Kastelanetz’s anthology called ‘Scenarios.’ MacLow says he wouldn’t have said some of the things the Living Theatre said. Noel Burch helped me to record the sound.” (JM)

4 min, 16mm, 1968, USA

“An interview with War Minister of Lapland concerning War in Vietnam. A few practical suggestions are given, among them a suggestion to turn the conduction of war over to mafia. (The Minister played by Adolfas Mekas.)” (JM)

12 min, 16mm, 1966, USA

“Ringling Bros., filmed in three sessions (three-ring circus), with no post-editing of opticals, five rolls strung together as they came out of a camera. Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band prepared the soundtrack. Film can also be watched with soundtrack turned off (if you’re a “purist” which I’m not)” (JM)

23 min, 16mm, 1983, USA

“Made 1965 / 1983 With Kenneth King and Phoebe Neville. “Kenneth King’s CUP/SAUCER/TWO DANCERS/RADIO (1964) is an essay in Pop Art style, in which all the elements listed in the title have equal emphasis. Phoebe Neville, dressed in bra, girdle, curlers, and toe shoes, marches across the floor on pointe with a radio clasped to her ear. King, dressed in undershirt and shorts and a black tie, does calisthenics. Both spill colored solutions from the coffee cup all over themselves, embrace one another emotionlessly, and mechanically caress their own bodies, while rock and roll songs comment ironically on the action and a taped voice explains the dance’s structure. Mekas, recording a 1965 performance of this key postmodern dance, has translated it into an extraordinary film.” — Sally Banes, Village Voice, Oct. 18, 1983.

5 min, 16mm, 1966, USA

A small port in South of France, a lighthouse, the sea, shot from just before the sunrise until just after the sunset, all day long, frame by frame, a frame or two every second or every few minutes.

15 min, 16mm, 1949/2002, USA

“Footage I shot in l950, my first year in New York, more precisely, in Brooklyn. Williamsburg was a small miserable part of Brooklyn inhabited at that time mostly by Lithuanian immigrants. That was my new home. Miserable home but home. And I knew that Henry Miller had lived in Williamsburg, I passed his house every day. So I was happy to be there. And I was free! I was free and I had just acquired my first Bolex camera.” (JM)

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