Jonas Mekas, The Brig 

Jonas Mekas, The Brig 

Jonas Mekas, The Brig 
Film screening introduced by Andrew V. Uroskie

Admission starts at $5

April 21, 2022, 7pm
172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Join us at e-flux Screening Room on Thursday, April 21 at 7pm for a screening of Jonas Mekas’s The Brig (1964, 68 minutes).

In late February 1964, the night before The Brig—a play written by Kenneth H. Brown and produced by the legendary experimental theater group Living Theatre—was to be closed by the New York tax authorities, Jonas Mekas, together with Judith Malina and Julian Beck as well as the actors and stage crew, illegally sneaked into the theater in the Lower East Side to re-enact the play for Mekas’ camera.

As Mekas later remembered, he was so taken aback by the visceral portrayal of the cruelty of military life in the play, and by the Living Theatre’s austere set and ruthless acting, that he decided to make a documentary of the performance rather than adapt the stage event to the film. He later commented, “as I watched [the play] I thought: suppose this was a real brig; suppose I was a newsreel reporter; suppose I got permission from the U.S. Marine Corps to go into one of their brigs and film the goings-on: What a document one could bring to the eyes of humanity!”

Mekas’ cinematic document of the Living Theatre’s anti-war performance became his most overtly political film. The Brig won the Grand Prize for best documentary at the Venice Film Festival later that year, and positioned itself as a distinct film in Mekas’ filmography, expressing the Beat Generation’s spirit and serving as a catalyst for the establishment of the New American Cinema Group.

The screening of The Brig will be introduced by Andrew V. Uroskie (Stony Brook University) whose May 10 talk drawing on Jonas Mekas’s connections with the New York art scene will inaugurate Film Beyond Film: Art and The Moving Image, a series of monthly lectures at e-flux Screening Room by researchers whose work has formed the discourse at the intersection of modern/contemporary art and cinema, and that focus on the histories of artists’ films, situating them within broader aesthetic, political, and economic contexts.

Tickets are available here.

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Film, Theater, Avant-Garde
Experimental Film, Militarization, Police & Prisons

Jonas Mekas (b. 1922, Semeniškiai, Lithuania) was a filmmaker, poet, teacher, and archivist. After escaping a Nazi labor camp in Germany with his brother Adolfas (1925–2011), Mekas attended the University of Mainz, where he studied philosophy. In 1949, the brothers were given status as United Nations refugees and were relocated to New York City, where before long Mekas would start making films, soon becoming a part of the film community and one of the major influences in a culture that he would dub New American Cinema. In 1954, together with his brother, Mekas started the landmark Film Culture magazine, and in 1958 began his legendary Movie Journal column in the Village Voice. In 1962 he founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, and in 1964, the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, which eventually grew into Anthology Film Archives, a screening venue and one of the world’s largest and most important repositories of avant-garde cinema. Throughout his life, Mekas made over sixty films and film installations that have been shown in musuems and festivals worldwide, and he is largely credited for developing the diaristic forms of cinema. He is the author of more than twenty-five books of prose and poetry, which have been translated into over a dozen languages and are considered classic works of literature in his home country, Lithuania. On January 23, 2019, Mekas passed away at the age of 96 at his home in Brooklyn.

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