Jonas Mekas, the Lithuanian-born director, critic, patron and poet widely regarded as the godfather of modern American avant-garde film, died on January 23, aged 96.
After the Second World War (when he was imprisoned in a German forced labour camp), Mekas moved to New York, where he befriended writers, musicians and artists including Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon and Salvador Dalí,
He co-founded the pioneering film magazine Film Culture, and arranged screenings of arthouse films. He was arrested in 1964 on obscenity charges for showing boundary-pushing movies by Jean Genet and Jack Smith - and convicted - but the sentence was overturned on appeal. (Mekas eventually received a letter of apology from the prosecutor, 50 years later).
Mekas's most acclaimed film, The Brig, based on a play set in a military prison, received the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1963.
Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch called Mekas "one of the most inspiring artists I have ever encountered – the poets’ version of the Kung Fu master."