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to May 11

Well into his career as a director, critic, programmer, and freelance catalyst, Jonas Mekas had 25 years of activities in New York’s underground-film scene to discuss when he first appeared at the Hirshhorn, as the initial guest speaker in the museum’s new film program. That was in 1976. Thirty years later, Mekas returns to the Hirshhorn, and his talk (at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11) could encompass his youth in Lithuania, his World War II concentration-camp imprisonment, and his relationships with Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Jack Smith, and many other Manhattan avant-garde lights. Preceding Mekas’ appearance, the Hirshhorn will screen two of his best-known works: Walden (at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 4) and Reminiscence of a Journey to Lithuania (at 8 p.m. Friday, May 5). Both are “diary” films, which the filmmaker once explained derive from “walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year.” Filmed from 1964 to 1968, and assembled chronologically, Walden includes appearances by the Velvet Underground and Nico, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, and more. Reminiscence of a Journey to Lithuania is more tightly focused, having been shot during a 1972 trip to Mekas’ childhood home; it’s divided into three parts that each take different approaches to the experience. Also showing on Thursday, May 4, is Happy Birthday, John, which was finished in 1999 but uses 1972 footage of John Lennon’s birthday and the opening of his and Yoko Ono’s art show at Syracuse’s Everson Museum. The films show (see Showtimes for weekly schedule) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th & Independence Avenue SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)