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Maya Deren (1917 - 1961)

Related: director - experimental film - American cinema

Maya Deren, photocredit unknown

Maya Deren took the word 'abandoned' to refer to Guillaume Apollinaire's observation that a work of art is never completed, just abandoned. [Aug 2006]


Born Eleanora Derenkovskaya on April 29, 1917, Maya Deren was an American avant-garde filmmaker and film theorist of the 1940s and 1950s.

Deren was born in Kiev, Ukraine. In 1922, because of her father's sympathies for Leon Trotsky, the family fled to Syracuse, New York. By 1935 she was very active in various socialist causes in the New York City.

In the early 1940s, Deren used some of the inheritance from her father to purchase a used 16mm Bolex camera. She used this camera to make her first and most well-known film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). Meshes of the Afternoon is recognized as a seminal American avant-garde film. It was in 1943 that she adopted the name Maya Deren.

Upon her return to New York City in 1943 her social circle included the likes of Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, and Anais Nin. She continued making 16mm films such as "At Land" (1944) and "A Study in Choreography for Camera" (1945). In 1946 she was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for "Creative Work in the Field of Motion Pictures." In 1947 she won the Grand Prix Internationale for 16mm experimental film at Cannes for Meshes of the Afternoon.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Deren became heavily involved in Haitian voodoo. Not only did she film many hours of voodoo ritual, but also partipated in them.

Deren passed away in 1961, at the age of 44, from a brain hemorrhage. Some have speculated that her death was the result of a voodoo curse.

In 2001, Martina Kudlacek released a documentary about Deren, titled In the Mirror of Maya Deren. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Deren [Aug 2004]

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) - Maya Deren

Meshes of the Afternoon is a 1943 short film. It has no plot, only images: a flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a phone off the hook.

Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid wrote, directed and starred in the film. The original print had no score. The musical score by Teiji Ito was added in the 1950s. The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meshes_of_the_Afternoon [Aug 2004]

In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2002) - Martina Kudlácek

In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2002) - Martina Kudlácek [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

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