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Directed by Jonas Mekas

United States 1986 124 mins. In English

Covering the years 1969-1984 and featuring a huge number of New York art-world luminaries, Mekas described He Stands in a Desert as “nothing spectacular”—although the raw material of life, which makes up the film, provides remarkable experiences and visions at every turn.

“A continuation of my film diaries. The footage covers the period from 1969 to 1984. During the same period I shot much more footage than what you see in He Stands… I am including in this film only the most impersonal footage. Originally, I was planning to call this film Anthropological Sketches. It consists of scenes, sketches of people, activities, happenings, events outside – or almost outside – of my life which I am observing from a slight distance. There are some sketches that are from my personal life, I included them to balance, to warm up the impersonal material. There will be two more films from the same period: one will include all my ‘personal’ material (home, friends), the other all my ‘abstract’ material.

The film consists of 124 brief sketches, each half-a-minute to about two minutes long. Portraits of people I have spent time with, places, seasons of the year, weather (storms, snow blizzards, etc.), many of my film-maker friends such as Hans Richter, Rossellini, Marcel Hanoun, Adolfo Arrieta, Henri Langlois, Cavalcanti, Kubelka, Ken Jacobs, Kenneth Anger, Kuchars, Breer, Willard Van Dyke, Frampton, etc., or just friends, such as John Lennon, Jackie Onassis, Lee Radzwill, John Kennedy Jr. & Caroline, Tina and Anthony Radziwill, Peter Beard, Andy Warhol, Richard Foreman, P. Adams Sitney, Yoko Ono, Raimund Abraham, Hermann Nitsch, Allen Ginsberg, George Maciunas, and countless others – streets and parks of New York – brief escapes into nature, out of town – nothing spectacular, all very insignificant, unimportant – misc. celebrations of life that has gone, by now, and remains only as recorded in these personal, brief sketches. ‘You keep a diary & the diary will keep you.’ – Mae West, to Peter Beard (from the film).”—Jonas Mekas.

The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.