Maya Deren is one of the most influential figures in American underground film history. She has directed some of the underground's most iconic films and was a major proponet of alternative storytelling techniques through her writing.
Born in 1917, Deren emigrated from the Ukraine to New York state in the U.S. in the 1920s. Then, in the 1940s, she traveled the country as the personal secretary to choreographer Katherine Dunham. These travels brought Deren to Los Angeles where she met and married cinematographer Alexander Hammid.
Together, the pair made the film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), which would gain recognition as one of the most significant avant-garde films ever made, largely due to the film's innovative "poetic" structure. Her accomplishment also inspired other local L.A. avant-garde filmmakers, like Kenneth Anger, Gregory Markopoulos and Curtis Harrington.
Shortly afterward, Deren moved back to the East Coast where she continued to make films, but she also grew increasingly aggressive in promoting her work through writing, giving lectures and organizing screenings for herself.
Deren's later work would focus on two of her passions: Choreography and the culture of Haiti. It was while working on a documentary on the Haitian religion of vodou that Deren tragically passed away in 1961 at the young age of 44. Her third husband, Teiji Ito, eventually finished the documentary as Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti.
To learn more about how Maya Deren has impacted the world of avant-garde filmmaking, please visit the Underground Film Timeline.
2014 Winnipeg Underground Film Festival: Official Lineup
The 2nd annual Winnipeg Underground Film Festival features a mini-retrospective of Mike Hoolboom; avant-garde cat films by Maya Deren, Jodie Mack and others; and lots more films.
Underground Film History 1947: Silent Movies Will Thrill, Will Chill Museum Members
Condescending article insulting Maya Deren and her film Meshes of the Afternoon, one of the indisputable classics of underground film.
Streaming: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods Of Haiti
Using footage shot by Maya Deren and edited decades after her untimely death by her third husband, Teiji Ito, this documentary examines the practice of vodou in Haiti.
Film-Makers’ Cooperative: AXWFF Salutes MM Serra
May 1: The Another Experiment by Women Film Festival is hosting this tribute to longtime Film-makers’ Cooperative director MM Serra and includes several short films by women.
Underground Film Revolutionaries: Maya Deren
Millennium Film Workshop: Cinema 16 Benefit For Millennium
Working on and scanning through the Underground Film Journal’s Underground Film Timeline periodically, I am continually struck and impressed by… Read More…
July 16: Legendary avant-garde cinema club Cinema 16 is holding a music and film benefit performance for Millennium Film Group.
Barbara Hammer: Maya Deren’s Sink (Excerpt)
In Barbara Hammer’s Duchampian exercise, Maya Deren’s Sink, you can get a glimpse into the legendary filmmaker’s legacy.
7 Cool Documentaries About Filmmakers
Some really excellent documentaries have been made about underground filmmakers, both old and new. These 7 are easily caught on DVD.
Netflix Streaming Underground Movies
Netflix has begun streaming underground movies over the Internet, now you can watch Eraserhead, Maya Deren, My Winnipeg and more online.
1946 Art In Cinema: Official Lineup
Check out the list of films that screened at the 1946 Art in Cinema series, which mounted a major retrospective of underground film.