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Filmmaker and Professor Adolfas Mekas Dies at 85

Filmmaker and Professor Adolfas Mekas Dies at 85

Seminal avant garde filmmaker and retired Bard College professor Adolfas Mekas, who co-founded Film Culture magazine with his brother and fellow filmmaker Jonas Mekas in 1955 and taught at Bard for 33 years, died this morning from an unexpected heart problem. He was 85.

The news was confirmed by Mekas’ niece, actress Oona Mekas. “He was a warm, funny, loving, great man,” Oona Mekas wrote in a message sent to members of the experimental film listserv Frameworks. “He will be missed.”

After immigrating from Lithuania with his brother in 1949, Mekas played a key role in the New American Cinema movement that congealed around the publication of Film Culture. He produced several experimental features, including the acclaimed 1963 love triangle comedy “Hallelujah the Hills,” which played at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Writing in the Village Voice at the time, critic Andrew Sarries announced that “even avowed enemies of the New American Cinema were impressed by the film’s lack of pretentions and its unexpected lyricism and zen serenity in the midst of nervous parody.” Time magazine called it “the weirdest, wooziest, wackiest screen comedy of 1963.” Later that year, the film screened at the very first edition of the New York Film Festival.

In subsequent years, Mekas produced several other features, including the equally well-received “Going Home” in 1971. That film, along with Jonas’ 1972 “Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania,” follows the brothers on a trip to their hometown in Lithuania for the first time since the end of World War II.

Mekas retired from his teaching position at Bard in 2004. In recent years, he was working with David Avallone on a a feature centered on the Italian Dominican thinker Giordano Bruno entitled “Burn Bruno Burn,” among other projects. He also appears in Jonas’ most recent film diary project, “Sleepless Nights Stories.”

He is survived by his wife Pola and his son Sean. There will be a memorial in New York City but no dates have been set yet.

A more detailed background on Mekas’ career can be found here.

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Fred Greenspan

He had a good, long run and now the world feels like a different place with him gone. We will miss him and treasure the memories of our visits with him over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with all his family and friends.


thank you for everything adolfas. We will miss you.

Mark L. Feinsod

RIP, Adolfas. It’s truly a loss for the Bard College community and the world of filmmaking in general.

Dirk de Jong

Sad to hear he’s gone but I’m really glad to have been his student for a time and to have known him. Interesting and surprising mind, wonderful person, rich sense of humor, fascinating film maker / film watcher. RIP Adolphas and condolences to close family and friends.

Karen Varbalow

Mekas will always be a Bard legend. He inspired more than just the film or photographer majors. This little math major will miss his spirit.

Randy Gener

I believe in Adolfas. He was a beautiful, loving man. He now takes his place beside Saint Tula. I will remember you always.


an inspiring man of heart, mind…and laughter

Jane Greenbaum

A truly remarkable human being. A mentor a friend and one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. He is the reason I fell in love with experimental animation. He introduced me to Harry Smith, who’s work changed my life at a very young and impressionable age. Adolfas taught me not to except boundaries. To follow my creative impulses. Journey out beyond expectations. He was “The Peoples Film Department” at Bard College. He made me believe in Saint Tula, the patron saint of cinema.

Anna Watkins

Adolfas, my mentor and inspiration- you were the heart and humor of my Bard experience. Thank you for sharing your love of cinema!


Cinemagic-Need I say more that hasn’t been said already.


“Larger than life, a heart as big as all outdoors!” all the craziest cliches are true when it comes to Adolfas, thanks for everything

Robert Feldman

This was one beautiful man. From all your students at Bard over the years, you always had plenty to give, and we’ll miss you. Thanks for many things, the knowledge and the laughter.

Mike Wacks

Sudie mano tėvas filmas.
Please say hello to St. Tula for all of us.

Laura Bermudez

We love you Adolfas, Thank you!

jeff scher

Adolfas had and gave the gift of inspiration. He lit many fuses as a teacher, mentor and mad genius. I’ll miss him lots.

Gabe Wardell

I’ll miss you Adolfas. Say hi to St. Tula for me.

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