Headshot of Jonas Mekas

Grandlife culture

Jonas Mekas at The Roxy: Celebrating a True NY Visionary

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Roxy Cinema Curator Illyse Singer talks about the seminal work of filmmaker, curator, archivist, and critic Jonas Mekas, and the resounding impact he had on both herself and film culture. We also look back at a special moment with Jonas captured live at the Roxy Cinema.   


I first fell in love with Jonas Mekas when I was in college. I was 18 and studying Avant-Garde cinema with the prominent New York film critic Amy Taubin. She showed us Walden. I had never seen anything like it: something that illuminates the simple everyday beauty in life. I loved his diaristic approach to filmmaking; it felt so free, and I immediately connected to it. He is considered the godfather of avant-garde cinema, but additionally, Jonas was a pioneer of film preservation. He founded the Anthology Film Archives, a place I have treasured since first moving to New York. It was a place I haunted in my late teenage years to find out about every important film I had never seen. According to Jonas, a film can last 200 years if preserved correctly, and his entire life’s work has gone to preserving and archiving films to ensure they last for future generations. Without people like him, we’d lose such an incredibly rich art form.

Last fall, we had the honor of hosting Jonas at the Roxy Cinema. We showed several of his films on 16mm to celebrate the release of his book, A Dance With Fred Astaire. He spoke to the audience about what inspired him, and it was truly magical. I wish we had known his time was so limited, but to all that were there, he greatly affected us. I now look around with an imbued sense of wonder at everything, the way Jonas did. Everything inspires him, and I try to take that feeling with me allowing myself to be inspired by all that I am surrounded by always.

WORDS Illyse Singer 

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