Jonas Mekas (b. 1922) is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the genres of diary and essay film, as well as an influential critic, film programmer, and organizer, who was instrumental in the emergence of a diverse avant-garde cinema scene in postwar America. He is also someone who has stressed in numerous interviews the crucial role that his experience during World War II and status as a displaced person after the war played in shaping his artistic vision.
Mekas first started filming the life around him in 1949, mere weeks after he and his brother, Adolfas, arrived in New York from Europe. In 1969, he completed his first diary film, Walden, which documented through short snippets of footage, intertitles, and an evocative sound track the five previous years of Mekas’ life in New York. Released in 1972, Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania was Mekas’ second diary film, which narrates through highly personal footage and voiceover the Mekas brothers’ visit to their native Lithuanian village of Semeniškiai in 1971 after a 27-year absence.