Adolfas Mekas, a member of the avant-garde New American Cinema movement of the 1960s and longtime professor of film at New York’s Bard College, died Tuesday, May 31 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 85. The cause of death was not released.
The Lithuanian-born Mekas came to the U.S. in 1949 after internment in a Nazi concentration camp and later in displaced-persons camps in Germany, where he was able to study theater arts and literature.
He served as a still photographer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1951-53. Mekas and his brother Jonas founded the journal Film Culture in 1954 and the Filmmakers’ Cooperative, an independent cinema distribution house owned by artists.
Mekas was associated with the neo-Dadaist Fluxus movement and participated in the first Fluxus performance in 1961. He made several short films and then the comedy feature “Hallelujah the Hills,” which played at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963.
Another feature, 1971’s “Going Home,” and his brother’s 1972 feature “Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania,” chronicled their first trip to their Lithuanian hometown since the end of WWII.
Mekas founded the film program at Bard in 1971 and directed it until 1994. He retired from active teaching in 2004 and was a professor emeritus. He lived in Rhinebeck, N.Y.