Jonas Mekas

Looking back on Jonas Mekas – a film maker always looking forwards


Tampere Film Festival celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jonas Mekas. With this small selection of films Tampere Film Festival joins scores of screenings, exhibitions and symposiums all around the world in 2022.

Jonas Mekas, Lithuanian born film maker moved to USA as a refugee after the Second World War. He bought his first film camera in 1950 and did not stop making films until his death in 2019. Jonas Mekas was always an avant-garde film maker but also interested in helping other film makers:  He founded a magazine Film Culture, he was co-founder of Film Makers´ Co-operative and later Anthology Film Archives, one of the most important collection of avant-garde cinema in the world. Jonas Mekas was always looking forward: in his late years he embraced the possibilities of digital film making and internet as tools to record things around him and allow access to his works to more people than before.

Jonas Mekas visited Tampere Film Festival in 2007. That year he was working on his 365-project, publishing each day a film on internet, often shot previous day while travelling around the world.

14 years ago, publishing every day a short film online, perhaps 5–10 minutes long,  was not as easy as it is today. Several films, dated march 16th–21st were made during his visit in Tampere. The films from his 365 project are still available at his website, and yes, there is also footage from the sauna party (March 18th).

This year, Tampere Film Festival shows a small glimpse to Jonas Mekas´ work tos encourage spectators to find more about him and his films.  In this small selection we can only speedily go through the decades and see how he saw the world around him through the lens of his camera.

Meeting Jonas Mekas, talking with him, seeing him talking to the audience – I was amazed by his energy and like so many people, mesmerized by his charisma. I still remember him becoming slightly irritated by a young film maker, hinting during a discussion that new technologies would be somehow less artistic than 16mm film. In his answer Jonas could not understand young people living in the past and encouraged them to embrace the new technology and its possibilities. Jonas Mekas was always looking forward, always interested in new things. Always avant-garde.

Tampere Film Festival would like to thank Lithuanian Culture Institute and Pip Chodorov for helping us with this programme.


Jukka-Pekka Laakso