Fragments of Paradise from director KD Davison won the “Venice Classics Award for Best Documentary on Cinema” at the Venice Biennale. The film follows the life of Jonas Mekas, internationally known as the “godfather” of avant-garde cinema, from his arrival in New York City as a displaced person in 1949 to his death in 2019.
’I spent the pandemic in Jonas’ sprawling archive, a marathon viewing over the course of a year. I have often wondered if this is how he would have preferred his work be seen. Immersive and in its totality. Fragments of Paradise is then itself a fragment… a window onto “some of the beauty” Jonas never failed to find. In our present moment, defined as it is by crisis, the themes at the heart of Jonas’ work, themes like exile, loss, and yes, the relentless pursuit of beauty, take on a universal quality. There is something to be gleaned from his almost religious insistence on the importance of momentary, fragile things—finding joy in mundane experience—as the key to a happy life‘, wrote KD Davison in her statement.
The Lithuanian born artist is famous for his poetry and films. Jonas Mekas has published more than 25 books of prose and poetry, which have been translated into over a dozen languages. His Lithuanian poetry is now part of Lithuanian classic literature and his films can be found in leading museums around the world. He is largely credited for developing the diaristic forms of cinema. Mekas has also been active as an academic, teaching at the New School for Social Research, the International Center for Photography, Cooper Union, New York University, and MIT.
This year marks 100 years since Jonas Mekas birth, and the list of events commemorating his anniversary shows that celebrations span the globe. From the US to China, more than 50 events are set to mark the occasion – film screenings and retrospectives, exhibitions, readings, workshops, new publications and translations of Mekas’ writings as well as concerts celebrating the spirit of his work. The calendar of events can be found on the website Jonas Mekas 100!, whose diary-like structure evokes Mekas’ celebrated diary films.