Underground Film Journal

Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas leaps into the air from a New York City sidewalk

Jonas Mekas was born on Dec. 24, 1922 in Lithuania. He later emigrated to the U.S. in 1948 after escaping from a German work camp during WWII. Shortly after his arrival in NYC with his brother Adolfas, Mekas became the leading champion for the underground film scene by publishing the quarterly journal Film Culture, writing a weekly column for the Village Voice called "Movie Journal," co-founding the Film-makers' Cooperative distribution center and co-founding the first "museum of film," the Anthology Film Archives.

Mekas also began his own filmmaking career directing a fictional narrative, Guns of the Trees, but soon turned to focusing exclusively on his "diary" filmmaking, capturing his daily life on film and then, later, on video. Throughout his life, Mekas has edited his diary footage into long, cohesive works such as Walden; Lost, Lost, Lost; As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty; and many more.

Mekas is still a widely influential figure in the American underground film scene, which he dubbed the New American Cinema back in the '60s. Plus, in 2007, he founded the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The below filmography for Mekas is in no way complete due to his prodigious diary output, but much of it was constructed using research for the Journal's Underground Film Timeline.

Watch Streaming Films By Jonas Mekas:


A Letter From Greenpoint (2005)
As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000)
Notes for Jerome (1978)
Lost, Lost, Lost (1976)
Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971)
Walden (1969)
The Millbrook Report (1966)
The Circus Notebook (1966)
Hare Krishna (1966)
The Brig (1964) (WATCH)
Award Presentation to Andy Warhol (1964)
Moires: Dali/Oster Newsreel (1963)
Film Magazine of the Arts (1963)
Rabbitshit Haikus (1962-63)
Guns of the Trees (1961)
100 Glimpses of Salvador Dali (1961-)
Silent Journey (1955)
Circus Notebook (1955)
Grand Street (1953)


Canyon Cinema Cooperative: Catalogue No. 2, Supplement No. 1
In 1966, after six years of existence, the Canyon Cinema experimental film collective of San Francisco, California started its own cooperative distribution center, first listing films in the November ’66 issue of their News newsletter, in which they stated that they would be following in the footsteps of New York City’s Film-Makers’ Cooperative that had
Film-Makers’ Cooperative: The First Films
In a letter dated June 1, 1962, the newly formed Film-Makers’ Cooperative offered their first list of films that were available to rent. Fourteen filmmakers were represented. The need to form a cooperative distribution center for what were then called “independent filmmakers” was made in a series of meetings in the autumn of 1960. The
Robert Beck Memorial Cinema: The Secret Origin
New York City has a rich history of short-lived, unorthodox screening venues and societies that have buoyed the underground film movement along from its beginning. For some examples, in the 1960s, there was Jonas Mekas‘s Film-makers’ Cinematheque; while the late ’70s had Eric Mitchell and James Nares’s New Cinema. In 1998, Brian L. Frye was
Happy 95th Birthday, Jonas Mekas!
Happy Birthday to Jonas Mekas! Who turns 95 today! From humble beginnings in a small Lithuanian town, to escaping the Nazis, to arriving in New York City in 1948 to become a champion of the cinema! At first hesitant about the then burgeoning American avant-garde, Mekas would become it’s biggest supporter: Publishing Film Culture magazine,
A Look Back: The American New Wave 1958-1967
In 1983, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, along with Media Study/Buffalo, created a touring retrospective of avant-garde films, primarily feature-length ones and a few shorts, which they called “The American New Wave 1958-1967.” To accompany the tour, a hefty catalog was produced that included notes on the films, essays by film historians and
EXPRMNTL 3: 1963 Recap
1963 was a pivotal year in the history of avant-garde film in the United States. In Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney calls it “the high point of the mythopoeic development within the American avant-garde.” He explains: [Stan] Brakhage had finished and was exhibiting the first two sections of Dog Star Man by then; Jack Smith
Boston Film-Makers’ Cinematheque 1966-67: The Posters
In 1966, as the underground film wave was sweeping the country, a Boston off-shoot of New York City’s Film-Makers’ Cinematheque opened at a performance space at 53 Berkeley Street. Underground films were shown on weeknights, while on the weekends the space transformed into a music venue called The Boston Tea Party. The Cinematheque and the
Happy 92nd Birthday, Jonas Mekas!
Hey, if it’s Christmas Eve, then it’s time to celebrate the birthday of a very jolly old soul, Jonas Mekas, the Godfather of Underground Film. Face it, without Jonas promoting the underground as fiercely as he did back in the ’60s, then most of us who are into this unique art form probably wouldn’t be here celebrating it, much less making it. So, here’s to you Jonas, who turns 92 today!
Jonas Mekas: In Solidarity With Tartars And Ukraina
And now a little dinner music courtesy of the short diary video In Solidarity With Tartars and Ukraina by Jonas Mekas, who captures a lively performance by roaming musicians. The where, the why, the wherefore are all unimportant. All that matters here is the energy of the moment captured by a master video diarist.