Jonas Mekas (American/Lithuanian, b. December 24, 1922) is a filmmaker, poet, teacher, and archivist. He is most well-known for his work in furthering the Avant-garde film movement in America. After escaping a Nazi labor camp in Germany, Mekas attended the University of Mainz, where he studied philosophy. While there, he and his brother Adolfas (Lithuanian, 1925–2011) lived in a refugee camp and were exposed to films. One film in particular, The Search, would influence their thoughts about films and their meanings. In 1949, they were given status as United Nations refugees and were relocated to New York City. To escape their boredom and loneliness, they watched as many films as possible. This exposed Mekas to a variety of classic and emerging film styles. It wasn't long before he had purchased his own camera to film his life and the world around him, using this experience as practice. Mekas became a part of the film community and one of the major influences in a culture that he would dub New American Cinema.
The brothers started the landmark magazine, Film Culture, in 1954. Mekas would also earn respect via his regular movie journal column that appeared in Village Voice. He would film his first movie, The Guns of Trees, in 1962. Mekas’s other notable films include The Brig, Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, Lost Lost Lost, Paradise Not Yet Lost, and He Stands Alone in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life.
Over the course of his life, he has written over 20 poetry books; his Lithuanian poetry is considered to be classical literature in his home country. His film archive, Anthology Film Archives, is considered one of the most important in the United States. In 1974, Mekas married Hollis Melton, and the couple would eventually have two children, Oona and Sebastian. He currently lives and works in New York City. He marched in the Occupy Wall Street protests that occurred in October 2011.