Jonas Mekas, ‘Godfather’ of Avant-Garde Film, Dies at 96

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Jonas Mekas takes part in a Q&A following the "I Had Nowhere To Go" screening during the 54th New York Film Festival at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater on Oct. 13, 2016. (Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Jonas Mekas takes part in a Q&A following the “I Had Nowhere To Go” screening during the 54th New York Film Festival at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater on Oct. 13, 2016. (Credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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Jonas Mekas, the Lithuanian-born director, critic, patron and poet widely regarded as the godfather of modern American avant-garde film and as an indispensable documenter of his adopted New York City, has died. He was 96.

Mekas, who survived a Nazi labor camp and years as a refugee, died Wednesday morning at his home, said the Anthology Film Archives. Mekas was artistic director of the New York-based center for film preservation, which is also a leading avant-garde movie theater.

Mekas was at the center of a historic era for the avant-garde and befriended celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy, John Lennon and Andy Warhol. He published poetry and memoirs, made hundreds of films and videos and helped open the Anthology Film Archives, where a young Martin Scorsese was among the attendees.

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