In the late 1940s, Maya Deren took increasing artistic control over her films, including detailed scripts and shot plans, seen clearly in the camera work, matching action, and editing strategies employed in Study in Choreography for Camera and Ritual in Transfigured Time—both works completed before she was awarded the first Guggenheim Fellowship for “Creative Work in the Field of Motion Pictures” in 1946. It was also during this time that Deren began to screen and distribute her films, lecture on avant-garde filmmaking and film theory, and nurture a profound interest in the Voudoun culture and rituals of Haiti.
With the Guggenheim Fellowship, Deren was able to travel to Haiti in 1947 to study the Voudoun culture, where she filmed, recorded, and photographed countless hours of dance and ritual. She documented her knowledge and experience in her book “Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti,” published by Vanguard Press in 1953, and made three additional trips to Haiti through 1954 to document and record further. With her death in 1961, however, Deren was unable to create a completed work from this footage. Over two decades later, in 1985, it was Deren’s third husband, collaborator, and dancer Teiji Ito who assembled the footage to create the 54-minute film Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti.
“The ritualistic form treats the human being not as the source of the dramatic action, but as a somewhat depersonalized element in a dramatic whole. The intent of such depersonalization is not the deconstruction of the individual; on the contrary, it enlarges him beyond the personal dimension and frees him from the specializations and confines of personality. He becomes part of a dynamic whole which, like all such creative relationships, in turn, endow its parts with a measure of its larger meaning.” —Maya Deren, “An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film.”
Included in this program:
A Study in Choreography for Camera, 1945 (3 mins., 16mm)
Ritual in Transfigured Time, 1946 (15 mins, 16mm)
Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, 1985 (54 mins, 16mm)
See more Maya Deren this weekend in the program Maya Deren Short Films.