1 Citation (Scopus)


This article compares two documentary treatments of the Central Park vigil for John Lennon in 1980: Happy Birthday to John (Jonas Mekas, 1995, 16mm, 18 min.), and Dix minutes de silence pour John Lennon/Ten Minutes Silence for John Lennon (Raymond Depardon, 1980, 16mm, 10 min.). Mekas and Depardon might seem an improbable combination but as the article demonstrates there are affinities, if not direct points of convergence, in outlook and documentary method: both sensibilities have been shaped by migrant experiences, and much of their work, for all its formal and structural differences, is preoccupied with experiences of exile and displacement, rootedness and the meaning of home, the country and the city (and in Mekas’s case, the country in the city). Mekas and Depardon are also Europeans who have developed an intimate social and artistic relationship with New York City; both are concerned with the place of autobiography in their work, using captions, inter-titles, diary entries, photographs, and 1st person commentary to complicate relations between the imaginary and the documentary. In addition to discussing the significance of these preoccupations, and differences in the manner in which both filmmakers witness the apotheosis of Lennon as cultural martyr (and natural New Yorker), the article also examines the phenomenon of public mourning, and how it often displaces its ostensible subject: associatively, in the case of Mekas; incidentally, in the case of Depardon; and intentionally, in the case of the mass media, and popular culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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