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Jonas Mekas visits Eastman House April 9; will receive title of George Eastman Honorary Scholar

Actor/Director Peter Bogdanovich in attendance to honor

Rochester, N.Y., March 29, 2011—Filmmaker Jonas Mekas — whom many call the Godfather of American Avant-Garde Cinema — will visit the George Eastman House at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 9, for a screening of his film Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania and to receive the title of George Eastman Honorary Scholar for artistic achievement. Past recipients of this honor include directors John Frankenheimer, James Ivory, and John Landis; actors/photographers Dennis Hopper and Jeff Bridges; and most recently musician/photographer Graham Nash in January.

Mekas’s career spans two continents and six decades. Mekas, 89, has taught a generation of filmgoers how to experience cinema — from avant-garde provocations and documentaries to 8mm home movies, light-shows, and projector performances.

“The influence of Jonas Mekas on independent and avant-garde cinema has been generative in many ways,” said Dr. Anthony Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director at George Eastman House. “His is a vision that has shaped an art form; an understanding that has led the definition of principles and standards, with a passion that, never wavering, inspires both those who create and those who observe.”

A leading independent film artist, Mekas is also cofounder of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, a founder of Anthology Film Archives, and author of “Movie Journal,” a film column in the Village Voice. As a curator, film and media artist, writer, and poet, he has fought censorship and advocated for the advancement of avant-garde cinema. Mekas has tackled practical problems in distribution, constantly working to break down barriers between filmmakers and audiences.

“My business is to get excited about it, to bring it to your attention. I am a raving maniac of the cinema,” Mekas said.

A Lithuanian émigré who spent a year in a Nazi forced labor camp and then another four years in assorted displaced persons camps throughout Europe, he gravitated almost immediately to cinema after arriving in Brooklyn in 1949.

“Mekas conveys both his own engagement with the world and the unfolding of social history,” said Kyle Westphal, Eastman House’s chief projectionist. “His collected ‘film diaries’ take viewers from New York’s vanished Lithuanian immigrant communities to 1960s bohemia at its most sincere. Above all, they affirm the joy and adventure of being with and around other people.”

Eastman House’s tribute to Jonas Mekas begins 8 p.m. Friday, April 8, with a selection of shorts he championed. Admission to both evenings is regular Dryden admission: $8 general/$6 members, and for the Saturday program $3 for students. For more information please visit Dryden.eastmanhouse.org or call (585) 271-3361.