• 29 April 1917
  •  Kiev, Russia [now Ukraine]

Maya Deren


Maya Deren came to the USA in 1922 as Eleanora Derenkowsky. Together with her father, a psychiatrist, and her mother, an artist, she fled the pogroms against Russian Jews. She studied journalism and political science in at Syracuse University in New York, finishing her BA at NYU in June 1936 and then received her MA in English literature from Smith in 1939. In 1943 she made her first film with Alexander Hammid, called Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). Through this association she changed her name, at Hammid's suggestion, to Maya, meaning "illusion." Overall, she made six short films and several incomplete films, including one with Marcel Duchamp titled Witch's Cradle (1944). Deren is the author of two books, "An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form, and Film" 1946 (reprinted in "The Legend of Maya Deren," vol 1, part 2) and "Divine Horsemen : The Living Gods of Haiti" (1953)--a book that was made after her first trip to Haiti in 1947 and which is still considered one of the most useful on Haitian Voudoun. Deren wrote numerous articles on film and on Haiti. Maya Deren shot over 18,000 feet of film in Haiti from 1947 to 1954 on Haitian Voudoun, parts of which can be viewed in an assembled video made after her death by her then-husband Teiji Ito and his new wife Cherel: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1985). In 1947, Maya Deren became the first filmmaker to receive a Guggenheim grant for creative work in motion pictures. She wrote film theory, distributed her own films, traveled across the USA, and went to Cuba and Canada to promote her films using the lecture-demonstration format to teach film theory, and Voudoun and the interrelationship of magic, science, and religion. Deren established the Creative Film Foundation in the late 1950s to reward the achievements of independent filmmakers.


Movie Name Release Date
At Land (1946) February 18, 1946
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) January 1, 1970