In Memory of Jonas Mekas

YIDFF 2019 Opening Film
On My Way to Fujiyama, I Saw . . . .

USA / 1996 / No Dialogue / Color / 16mm / 25 min

Director, Photography, Editing: Jonas Mekas
Music: Dalius Naujokaitis
Source: Mekas’ Diarists of Japan

This is Japan as shot by Jonas Mekas with his favorite Bolex camera on his visits in 1983 and 1991. During his August visit for Mekas Summer 1991: New York, Lithuania, Obihiro, Yamagata, and Shinjuku, organized by Mekas’ Diarists of Japan, he came to Yamagata, via Obihiro, and extended his journey to Ginzan hot springs. He also showed Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, and took part in a talk event with poets Kimura Michio and Suzuki Shiroyasu. We see the Japanese landscape through Mekas’ own eyes, and his conversations with his friends in Japan. Mekas’ everyday life emerges on the screen, where momentary fleeting scenery synchronizes with Dalius Naujokaitis’ percussion.

I Had Nowhere to Go

GERMANY / 2016 / English / Color, B&W / Digital File / 100 min

Director: Douglas Gordon
Editing: Ninon Liotet
Sound: Frank Kruse
Cast (Voice): Jonas Mekas
Producers: Zeynep Yuecel, Sigrid Hoerner
Production Companies: olddognewtricks, moneypenny filmproduktion
Source: olddognewtricks

Filmmaker Jonas Mekas (1922–2019) fled the German occupation of Lithuania only to be captured by the Nazis and sent to a forced labor camp in Hamburg. Afterward, he escaped, rotating between refugee camps until fleeing to the United States in 1949. This film paints a picture of a rootless filmmaker driven out of his homeland, in what is both a personal diary and a record of a refugee—later exile—displaced by the calamity of war. Douglas Gordon, who had known Mekas for many years, takes fragmented recitations of Mekas’ I Had Nowhere to Go (Black Thistle Press, 1991; Spector Books, 2017), overlaying them over a black screen for the majority of the film, reconstructing Mekas’ life through oscillating time and space.