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France Honors Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas received the medal representing the highest rank of the Order of Arts and Letters on January 15, 2013, in an insignia ceremony presided over by Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy at the French Embassy Cultural Services in New York, amidst an illustrious gathering including Mr. Mekas' son, Consul General and Mrs. Valdemaras Sarapinas of Lithuania, as well as close friends and colleagues in the field of experimental cinema. 

In his remarks, Mr. Baudry praised the Lithuanian-born filmmaker who, along with his brother, became deeply involved in the American avant-garde film movement soon after they immigrated to the US in 1949.  A founder and President of Anthology Film Archives -- a screening venue and one of the world's largest and most important repositories of avant-garde cinema --Mr. Mekas has been one of the most influential voices in cinema as an experimental filmmaker, a film critic, writer, and a fervent advocate of independent film as an art form.  Mr. Mekas is so renowned in France as a filmmaker that he is even recognized by film buffs who spot him occasionally on the streets of Paris.  After the conferral of the medal by Cultural Counselor Baudry, the Consul General of Lithuania lauded Mekas briefly on the special place he holds in Lithuanian culture, both for his writings, translated in a dozen languages, and his cinematic works.  As for Mr. Mekas himself, he responded on this occasion with a noble graciousness and a masterful sense of humor.

About the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) was created in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as individuals who have contributed to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.  The Order, which is composed of three ranks (chevalier, officer, commander), is given out twice annually to only a few hundred people worldwide. Several Americans have received the award, including Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Agnes Gund, Marilyn Horne, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Uma Thurman.