Born in Chicago on May 16, 1943, of a military family, Jon Jost grew up in Georgia, Kansas, Japan, Italy, Germany and Virginia. Expelled from college in 1962, he began making 16mm films in January, 1963. He is self-taught. He has made 34 feature length films on celluloid, 16 and 35mm, and digital media, all of which he has conceived, written, photographed, directed and edited; most of these he also produced. He has made more than 30 short works in addition to the long film, and as well as one large-scale 7 screen installation work, TRINITY, presented at the ZKM, Karlsruhe Germany, in this medium as of 2009.
After 10 years of making short works, Jost made his first feature-length film in 1974, and since devoted himself to the making of a wide-ranging series of films, largely focused on specifically American topics, in forms ranging from essays (Speaking Directly, Stagefright, Plain Talk & Common Sense), to fictions (Last Chants for a Slow Dance; Bell Diamond) to documentaries (Nas Correntes De Luz da Ria Formosa, London Brief) and hybrids such as Angel City. In Digital Video his work shifted to include highly abstract works such as Passages, Trinity and Dissonance
His work has shown widely in museums, film archives, and festivals since 1975. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, presented a complete retrospective of Jost's work in January 1991. This subsequently traveled to the J.F. Kennedy Center, Washington DC, the Harvard Film Archive, the UCLA Film Archive, The Film Arts Foundation of San Francisco, as well as to the Bergamo Film Meeting 1993, the Viennale festival 1993, the Bologna and Torino Film Archives in Italy (1995). Most recently his films were accorded full retrospectives at the Cinemateca Portuguese (1996) and the Filmoteca Español (1997), and in 2006 the Buenos Aires Independent Festival accorded his work a partial retrospective.
In November 2010 the Kolkata (India) Film Festival did a partial retrospective of 9 films in a festival "focus" on his work. In February 2011, the Jerusalem Cinematheque did an 11 film retrospective which was also done in Haifa and Tel Aviv. The Tokyo Athenee Francaise will do a10 film partial retrospective in March 2012.
He has been regularly invited to major film festivals with new work, including Venice (2004), Rotterdam (2008), Berlin, Toronto, London, Edinburgh, Sydney, Yamagata, Jeonju, Singapore, and many others.
Jost's recent work, HOMECOMING, was shown at the Venice Film Festival, Cinema Digitale section, in Sept. 2004, and then was shown at the Rotterdam festival in January 2005, as well as being in competition at Jeon Ju, Korea. Since 2006 his works, PASSAGES, LA LUNGA OMBRA, and OVER HERE were screened at the Rotterdam Festival, and subsequently at Jeon Ju, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Split, San Jose Maverick and other festivals. His most recent film, Imagens de uma cidade perdida was shown in Rotterdam and in competition at the Yamagata documentary festival in Japan in Oct 2011.
His films have been purchased for television broadcast and/or for cinema distribution in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Hungry, Russia, and Japan .
Prints of his films are held in the archives of The Museum of Modern Art, NY; the British Film Institute, the Freunde der deutschen Kinemathek, The Royal
Film Archive of Belgium, the Filmoteca Español, the Bologna Archive, the National Film Library of Australia (Canberra), the Yamagata Festival of Japan, and the Istituto Luce, Rome. His work is archived at EyeFilm the Netheraland Film Archive in Amsterdam.
Jost has been recipient of numerous grants, including two Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Berlin Fellowships (1979; 1985); an NEA UK-US Exchange Fellowship (1980); two NEA Media Production Grants (1985; 1989); a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989); a NYSCA Production Grant (1989), a production fellowship at the ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany (2000-1) and other smaller grants. In 2006-2007 Jost was Artist in Residence at the Ross Media Arts Center at the University of Nebraska’s Hixon-Lied Center.
Jost's have won numerous awards, including the Caligari Film Prize at the Berlin Festival 1991 for All the Vermeers in New York and Sure Fire. Vermeers received the Los Angeles Critics award for Best Independent Film 1992.
In March 1991 Jost was honored, along with Producer Edward Pressman, with the IFP/West's first "John Casavettes Lifetime Achievement Award" for independent filmmaking.
In March, 2000, he received the "Maverick Spirit Award," at the San Jose-based independent "Maverick" festival.
Mr. Jost was invited by the DOCUMENTA X, 1997, arts exposition of Kassel Germany, to make a full-length work of his own choice with the support of Documenta and SONY, for presentation in June 1997; owing to the total failure of Documenta to provide the originally promised funding, Mr. Jost withdrew from participation just prior to June 1997.
Mr Jost has sat on a number of film festival juries, including Jeonju (Korea), Sochi (Russia), Ex-is (Seoul), Florence Documentary (Italy) and some others he forgets.
Mr Jost retired from his position as Distinguished Professor at Seoul's Yonsei University in August 2012. He has resumed his work as a full-time independent artist, now in the USA.
Most recently he completed a new film, The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima, a documentary set in the tsunami ravaged north east coast of Japan. It runs 76 minutes and has been sent to numerous festivals.
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