Wavelengths

I Had Nowhere to Go

Douglas Gordon

Internationally acclaimed multimedia artist Douglas Gordon (24 Hour Psycho, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait) returns to the Festival with this intimate portrait of avant-garde cinema legend Jonas Mekas.

"An adventurer can always return home; an exile cannot. So I decided that culture would be my home." —Jonas Mekas

Internationally acclaimed multimedia artist Douglas Gordon returns to the Festival with an intimate portrait of Jonas Mekas, the legendary poet, film critic, risk-taking curator, "the godfather of the American avant-garde cinema" — and, at 93 years old, among the remaining few to have escaped and survived Nazi persecution.

I Had Nowhere to Go plunges us into both a collective and individual space of memory via long, imageless stretches over which Mekas narrates, in his inimitable voice, excerpts from his memoir (which lends the film its title). An extraordinary life story emerges as the film zigzags between Mekas' early years in a forced labour camp and a Displaced Person centre during WWII and his arrival in New York as a young Lithuanian émigré. With an immersive sound environment and intermittent, fleeting images that stand in evocative juxtaposition to Mekas' anecdotes, Gordon's film reveals in its subject a puckish humour that outweighs despair, and an unabated zest for life that both illuminates and softens the sadness.

A deeply moving tribute from one great artist to another and a singular work in its own right, I Had Nowhere to Go has timely resonance today as mass migratory movements are displacing millions of people throughout the world as refugees, exiles, and stateless persons. While Mekas is certainly no ordinary person, the story he tells is a profoundly humble one, as much about daily survival as it is about aspiring to accomplish so much more. Gordon, who is ingenious at activating memory and the cinematic imaginary, compellingly presents quotidian moments outside of Mekas' famous film-related activities in order to reveal the desires, impulses, melancholy, and perseverance that inform Mekas' filmmaking and infectious love of cinema. Even when truly having nowhere to go, Mekas always saw brief glimpses of beauty as he was moving ahead.

ANDRÉA PICARD

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