Jonas Mekas, godfather of American experimental film, dies at 96

New York (AFP) –


Lithuanian-born American director Jonas Mekas, one of the leading figures of avant-garde cinema in the United States, died Wednesday. He was 96.

"Jonas passed away quietly and peacefully early this morning," the New York-based Anthology Film Archives, which Mekas co-founded, posted on Instagram, saying he died at home with his family at his bedside.

"He will be greatly missed but his light shines on."

Born in 1922 in a northeastern Lithuanian village, Mekas was imprisoned in a labor camp in Germany during World War II.

He settled in New York in 1949, where he went on to become a pillar of independent film.

Mekas approached cinema from multiple angles -- as a filmmaker, but also as a journalist, curator, historian and spokesman for alternative and experimental movie-making.

He directed more than 70 films, mainly documentaries, aiming to capture moments of life which he often filtered through jerky, radical montage.

"I did not follow scripts," he said in a video shot by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and released in 2012.

"I was just filming," he said. "And the same, I'm doing now. I don't work with preconceived ideas. I film what happens and I never know what will happen."

"I don't live according to plans."

His 1964 film "The Brig" -- in which he films a play that takes place in a military prison -- remains his most famous.

Highly active in the film community, he was a critic for The Village Voice, once a top cultural paper of reference.

Mekas went on to co-found New York's Anthology Film Archives -- a renowned center dedicated to film and video with a focus on the avant garde.

Located in Manhattan's East Village, the center houses thousands of films, videotapes and documents.

At the time of his death Mekas remained the anthology's artistic director.