Keys to meet Maya Deren, mother of underground cinema – VEIN Magazine

Ukrainian director, dancer, choreographer, poet and writer. One of the most important women for American avant-garde, experimental and surrealist art.

His entire career as a filmmaker runs parallel to the opening of new avenues for avant-garde cinema. Maya Deren (1917-1961) is considered mother of cinema undergroundsurreal and avant-garde in the United States. His work opened the doors that remained hermetic between plastic arts and cinema. She was a feminist pioneer ahead of her time, her figure to this day is still appreciated. Maya Deren acted in, edited, wrote and directed her own films in the 1940s and 1950s, inspired by surrealism and psychoanalysis. His philosophy is very insistent on the ethical dimension of art. He defended that all the pieces of a work have a fundamental importance in the result.


This is how Maya Deren defined her own movies. ‘Cam Movies’ because they aspired to reach a intimate public, did not seek to reach a broad, commercial audience. He did not aspire to be exhibited in big theaters, but neither was he relegated to the margins. Her work is experimental, like herself. His circuits were universities, museums, artists’ circles… everything that was at the hands of art but where the cinema had not yet entered. maya deren distributed their own films and promoted them through classes and presentations in the United States, Canada and Cuba. She was the first American director who he visited institutes and universities to publicize experimental cinema and that he was interested in the education, in this sense, of the following generations.


In 1943 he shot together with Marcel Duchamp, French artist considered the father of the Dadaist movement. The movie, ‘The witch’s cradle’, it was never finished. There are unedited recorded portions available for viewing. Other titles that make up his filmography are ‘A study in choreography for the camera’, ‘Ritual in transfigured time’ or ‘Meshes of the afternoon’, his most recognized film. This experimental 16mm film work was awarded at the Cannes International Film Festival to International Grand Prix. Starring herself, in this work the oneiric of cinema and European painting merge to explore the fears of a woman during her dreams. This film influenced the art of other directors such as Jean Cocteau, Luis Buñuel or Daviv Lynch. It was acquired by New York MoMA.


maya deren criticized the artistic, political and economic monopoly that ran into the hands of Hollywood. The artist always positioned herself in against the standards and practices of the Hollywood film industry. He argued that this had been the great obstacle for cinema to define itself and develop as a form of creative and fine art. He said, “I make my movies with what Hollywood spends on lipstick”. Founded the Creative Film Foundationfrom 1956 to 1961. With the collaboration of Cinema 16, they rewarded and supported the work of independent and experimental filmmakers.


In 1946, Maya Deren was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for his filmic creativity. She became the first woman in the world to receive a Guggenheim grant to film freely. Thanks to this she was able to finance her trip to Haiti. The filmmaker herself always had a great interest in voodooinfluenced by the director of the dance company with which she had worked years ago on Haitian dances, Katherine Dunham. He filmed hours of voodoo dances, also participated in them and adopted the religion. his book, ‘Divine horsemen: The living God’s of Haiti’, along with documentary recordings, were edited by her third husband Teiji Ito and his wife Cherel Ito twenty years after Maya Deren’s death. She died in 1961, at the age of 44, of a stroke caused by advanced malnutrition and aggravated by amphetamine use.


Keys to meet Maya Deren, mother of underground cinema – VEIN Magazine