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Maya Deren: Experimental Films (2002)

Cast: Stan Brakhage, Chao-Li Chi, Katherine Dunham, more...
Director: Martina Kudlacek
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Genre: Documentary, Independent, Biographies, Short Films, Film
Running Time: 103 min.
Languages: English
    see additional details...

This title is currently out of print.

Maya Deren was one of the pioneering figures of avant-garde cinema in America and also a noted author, poet, anthropologist, and alternative cultural figure of the 1940s and 1950s. Born Eleanora Derenkovsky in 1917, her family fled Kiev in 1922 to avoid political and economic reprisals brought on by her father's association with Leon Trotsky. Settling in Syracuse, NY, the family shortened their name to Deren, and Eleanora developed a passionate interest in dance and literature. After receiving degrees in English Literature and Journalism, Deren relocated to Los Angeles, where she worked with the pioneering African-American choreographer Katherine Dunham and wrote an essay on "Religious Possession in Dancing." After marrying director Alexander Hackenschmied (aka Alexander Hammid), Deren bought a second-hand movie camera and made Meshes of the Afternoon, an award-winning and highly influential experimental film, the first of many she would direct. After adopting the name Maya (taken from the Buddha's mother), Deren traveled to Haiti, where she began work on a film about the Voudon (or Voodoo) religion, and with the assistance of Joseph Campbell, she wrote a pioneering book on the subject called Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. In the Mirror of Maya Deren is an ambitious documentary which examines the public and personal sides of Deren's life and work, including interviews with a number of friends and contemporaries, including Katherine Dunham, Stan Brakhage, Judith Malina, Alexander Hammid, and Jonas Mekas. The film also features an original score by noted experimental jazz composer John Zorn. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Excerpt from Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti
  • Private Life of a Cat - Previously unreleased short by Alexander Hammid
  • Picture Gallery
  • Notes and quotes
  • Biography

GreenCine Member Reviews

Meshes of the Afternoon - American avant-garde classic by Misshaped June 23, 2004 - 9:01 PM PDT
6 out of 7 members found this review helpful
I remember watching "Meshes in the Afternoon" in a college class, and 16 years later it was wonderful to revisit this film/poem. I still get chills from it.

If you are fascinated by films that still influence current filmmakers, then this series is a requirement. As well, I learned a lot of details about Maya through the DVD extras (Anais Nin met Maya while she was filming "At Land"). The New York Times said that Deren "both evoked and exemplified the American avant-garde movement virtually by herself."

Of note: after Maya graduated college, she worked with Katherine Dunham (anthropologist/dancer) and it's evident from her films that Maya had a profound awakening from this collaberation. She wrote an essay around that time entitled, "Religious Possession in Dancing". The DVD includes a snippit of a film Maya didn't complete prior to her death; "Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti".

Maya fills her dervish-like characters with a vodoun spirit, carrying them through a most personal and symbolic dreamworld. I may be way off base here, but I believe David Lynch was inspired by Meshes of the Afternoon when he composed Lost Highway. Each is a moebius strip filled with a sense of doom for the many dopplegangers involved. And as in vodoun practice, the dream self or spirit can inhabit another body in the world of the surreal.

This title is currently unavailable on disc or is no longer in-print.

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(Average 7.86)
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