ADOLFAS MEKAS (1925–2011)
Published in The Brooklyn Rail, Summer 2011

Adolfas Mekas—filmmaker, teacher, and co-founder (with his brother Jonas) of the influential magazine Film Culture—died on May 31, 2011. The Brooklyn Rail asked Mekas’s fellow filmmakers, colleagues, students, and friends to share their thoughts and reminiscences about his life and work.

I came east to Bard College to study film in the fall of 1982, and Adolfas was so unlike anyone I’d ever come across in Beloit, WI, that it took me years to figure out how to place him, how to speak to him, how to learn from him. He was all heart: he spoke with immediacy and astringency; there was no bullshit, no sugar coating, no intellectual meandering; just a shoot from the hip reaction. I remember editing my very first film on the second floor of the film center while a hapless senior faced a board of professors responding to his film. The 16mm projector turned on and chugged for several minutes, then Adolfas’s voice rang out in its Eastern European staccato: “Shit, shit, shit: this film is shit.” I cringed upstairs, but after a few minutes Adolfas had softened, and murmured encouraging words to the student. I learned to trust Adolfas because he had no investment in anything other than the joy of making work: his puckish, anti-institutional spirit was paramount, and passing trends held no sway with him. There was no fooling Adolfas, he could feel the heart in a film, and he responded viscerally with unvarnished enthusiasm or vitriol. Near the end of my time at Bard he told me about a former student who’d sent a 16mm film with fishhooks taped to it to the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and when they dutifully tried to prescreen the print it ripped the gate out of their projector. “Brilliant,” he said, “pure Dada.” Adolfas only cared about the act of creation: nothing else was sacred to him, not the avant-garde, political pieties, or any traditions or institutions. I loved the eternal twinkle in his eye, and the way he encouraged filmmaking as a way of life, not an accumulation of works.

Read full article here.

ADOLFAS MEKAS (1925–2011) | 2011 | Writing