This movie plays like a punch to the gut. It is a recording of a high-profile performance staged in the 1960s in New York by the avant-garde The Living Theater. Playwright Judith Malina throws the viewer for a day into the titular brig, an American military prison in Japan. Ten inmates and three guards put on a show of strength and humiliation. A cacophony of shouts and senseless orders, a sense of threat, psychological and physical terror make up the choreography of institutional violence. The nervous camera of the Mekas brothers is at the center of the events, showing both the naked, banal brutality and the surrealism of dehumanization, in which The Brig may be seen to have influenced Peter Watkins's famed Punishment Park. Nearly 60 years after its premiere - after Guantanamo, after BLM, after reports from Polish police stations in the aftermath of recent street protest - the film has lost none of its accusatory intensity.
announcing a retrospective at the 2022 New Horizons IFF in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birthday
Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) was a Lithuanian-American filmmaker, poet, activist and precursor of avant-garde cinema of the 1960s. He left his native Lithuania during World War II and in 1949 went to New York, which remained linked to his artistic activity for the remainder of his life. Mekas was one of the founders of Film-Makers' Cooperative, an independent filmmakers’ association engaged in distribution, education and exhibition of avant-garde films. Beginning in the 1950s, he recorded his everyday life on a 16 mm camera. The footage was used to create his monumental and intimate film journals: Walden, Lost Lost Lost or As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty. Mekas collaborated with counterculture icons like Yoko Ono, Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol; according to legend, he was the one who encouraged Warhol to make films. Mekas fought against American censorship and was an advocate of artistic freedom: In film we need less perfection and more freedom, he said in one interview, and his works, which he kept producing until the last days of his life, confirmed these words.
1961 Działa wśród drzew / Guns of the Trees
1964 Klatka / The Brig
1972 Reminiscencje z podróży na Litwę / Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania
1976 Lost Lost Lost
2000 Kiedy szedłem przed siebie, widziałem krótkie mgnienia piękna / As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty
2012 Ścinki z życia szczęśliwego człowieka / Out-Takes from the Life of a Happy Man