Jonas in the Desert




Peter Sempel, known for Dandy and Just Visiting This Planet (shown at the 13th and 15th Mostra Film Festival respectively), has chosen underground director, poet, and intellectual Jonas Mekas for subject of his most recent documentary Jonas in the Desert.

In fact, Mekas had already taken part in Just Visiting This Planet singing a gipsy aria. Like Sempel's former work, Jonas in the Desert is not a documentary in the strictest sense of the word. Rather, it is a journey through the world of the artist - one of the exponents of independent U.S. movies; founder and director of the New York Anthology Film Archive - and captures his ideas, his creativity, and art.

In this way, he shows much of Mekas' personality and of his creative universe. Sempel brings together image and music, phrases and conversation, statements by many of the cultural icons such as Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Kenneth Anger, Allen Ginsberg, Yoko Ono, Al Pacino, Martin Scorcese, among others, and passages from Mekas' films. Sempel's style echoes throughout the work of the artist itself; nevertheless, it acts more as a complement than a mere tribute. The result is a precise expression of the essence of Jonas Mekas. In 1993, the 17th Mostra de Cinema held a Mekas in retrospect on film with ten of his films. Internet Movie Database



Directed by
Peter Sempel

Writing credits
Jonas Mekas
Peter Sempel

Diahnne Abbott .... Herself
Kenneth Anger .... Himself
Jochen Arbeit .... Himself
Stanley Bard .... Himself
Blixa Bargeld .... Himself
Peter Beard .... Himself
Karen Black .... Herself
Eileen Bowser .... Herself
Stan Brakhage .... Himself
Nick Cave .... Himself
Merce Cunningham .... Himself
Cora Fischer .... Herself
Charles Ford .... Himself
Henry Geldzahler .... Himself
Allen Ginsberg .... Himself
George Gund .... Himself
Nina Hagen .... Herself
Dustin Hoffman .... Himself
Ken Jacobs .... Himself
Tanya Khabarowa .... Herself
Peter Kubelka .... Himself
George Kuchar .... Himself
Mike Kuchar .... Himself
Francis Lee .... Himself
Leo Letas .... Himself
George Maciunas .... Himself
Taylor Mead .... Himself
Adolfas Mekas .... Himself
Jonas Mekas .... Himself
Sebastian Mekas .... Himself
Paul Morrissey .... Himself
Kazuó Ohno .... Himself
Yoko Ono .... Herself
Al Pacino .... Himself
Nam June Paik .... Himself
William Rice .... Himself (as Bill Rice)
Martin Scorsese .... Himself
Andy Warhol .... Himself (archive footage)
Nick Zedd .... Himself

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I haven't been able to see this film but someone who has says that Al is only in it for a minute shaking hands with Indie-Film-god Jonas Mekas at a screening of "Local Stigmatic".

Here is a biography of Jonas Mekas from a page on Lithuanian Cinema.
MEKAS Jonas (1922-) - Lithuanian cinematographer and poet, an emigrant in USA. He educated in the Institute of Cinema of New York College. Jonas Mekas is one of the initiators of anti-Hollywood New York's movement of independent vanguard cinema creators; one of the founders of magazine "Film Culture" (1954), on of the authors of "new cinema" manifest, cinema commentator of the newspaper "The Village Voice", the initiator of the foundation of cinema directors' co-operative for independent creators. Mekas has created a great deal of films using the camera for a fan. He does not see the difference between amateurishness and professionality, between documentary and acting: with the help of slips he "writes" his unique and very personal diary. His early films "The Guns of the Trees" (1961), "The Brig" (1964, the prize of Venice Film Festival), which Mekas created together with his brother Adolphas, are closer to the traditional cinematography. The late ones (like "Recollections from the Journey to Lithuania", 1971) are more experimental, based on very subjective filming technique. To the cinematographers of the world, Mekas is the cult figure of avant-garde cinema. In 1994, there was created a film about Mekas "Jonas in a desert". The young Lithuanian film directors Algimantas Maceina, Julius Žižliauskas-Ziz, Arūnas Matelis, Audrius Stonys, Artūras Jevdokimovas, Vytautas V.Landsbergis worked on probation for Mekas in New York. Bibliography:Jonui Mekui -- 70. V., żurn. "Kinas", 1992, Nr.9.


Currently unavailable on dvd or video. 


Internet Movie Database
Peter Sempel's Page (you can see a picture of Al in the film here with the director and Jonas.)
review, Peter Sempel
another page on Sempel
A German Page on Jonas in the Desert
A Page on Jonas Mekas' Life