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In the Mirror of Maya Deren
In the Mirror of Maya Deren
Actors: Miriam Arsham, Stan Brakhage, Chao Li Chi, Rita Christiani, Maya Deren
Director: Martina Kudlácek
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 43min

Deemed "Fellini and Bergman wrapped in one gloriously possessed body," Maya Deren is arguably the most important and innovative avant-garde filmmaker in the history of American cinema. Using locations from the Hollywood hi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Miriam Arsham, Stan Brakhage, Chao Li Chi, Rita Christiani, Maya Deren
Director: Martina Kudlácek
Creators: Wolfgang Lehner, Martina Kudlácek, Henry Hills, Constantin Wulff, Johannes Holzhausen, Johannes Rosenberger, Thomas Korschil
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 07/27/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 43min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 15
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French

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Movie Reviews

A Creative Woman's Sense of Biological Time
Nicholas Croft | New York | 11/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Maya Deren is not greedy. She does not seek to possess the major portion of your days. She is content: "If on those rare occasions, whose truth can be stated only by poetry, you will perhaps recall an image, or even just the aura of one of my films."

Filmmaker Martina Kudlacek, with "In the Mirror of Maya Deren", has created the perfect companion documentary to the Mystic Fire Video DVD release of Maya's work: "Experimental Films". "In the Mirror of Maya Deren" weaves together excerpts from Ms. Deren's surreal films with archival audio recordings of Deren's voice and filmed interviews of her contemporaries: Alexander 'Sasha' Hammid, Katherine Dunham, Chao-Li Chi, Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage. It also features a haunting original score from Tzadik Records founder John Zorn.

This 103-minute work begins at Manhattan's Anthology Film Archives, where some lost containers of Maya's 16mm films have been uncovered. It then continues with the reminiscences of 'Sasha' Hammid, a pioneering Czech experimental filmmaker, who married Ms. Deren in the spring of 1943. Excerpts from and reflections on, "Meshes of the Afternoon", "At Land" and "Ritual in Transfigured Time" all lead into a discussion of Maya's 4 trips to Haiti. She spent 21 months there, between 1947 and 1955, documenting the religious festivals of the Haitian people.

Though much of the Haitian trip was recorded on film, the major fruit from this intense period of study was Maya's book: "Divine Horsemen, The Living Gods in Haiti", which was edited by Joseph Campbell and published in the year 1952. Also in 1952, Maya meets her second husband to be, Teiji Ito, son of the martial arts artist featured in Maya's 1948 film: "Meditation On Violence". They marry at sea in 1960, despite an 18-year age difference between them.

In 1961, Maya Deren dies as the result of a massive brain hemorrhage, at the age of 44. She will long be remembered for working completely outside of the commercial film industry, where she made her own inner experience to be the center of her cinema. "In the Mirror of Maya Deren" tells her uniquely dramatic story in a manner that both excites and perturbs. This compelling documentary should now be considered as essential viewing for all fans of avant-garde film."
Since Nothing Was Written Here...
mademoiselle_josephine_clementine_p | 1550 N. Fern Circle | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Since there were no reviews or explanations on this page I thought I'd just cut-and-paste some info from elsewhere...I will say that Maya Deren is a remarkable artist and I am surprised none of her DVDs or videos are on amazon...this was a good documentary that I caught at 3:00am on the Sundance channel.


directed by Martina Kudlacek


101 MINS, Color

Avant-garde filmmaker, feminist art icon, dancer and voodoo priestess, Maya Deren completed only seven short experimental films between 1943 and 1958, yet she changed cinema history. Czech documentarian Martina Kudlacek presents Deren's story, calling upon commentary from veterans of the early days of American independent cinema, fellow artists and critics, including Stan Brakhage, Amos Vogel, Jonas Mekas and Judith Malina. Also featured are audio recordings of Deren's lectures and rare clips from her unfinished film on Haiti. TV14 (AC, BN) Stereo

Martina Kudlacek

Wolfgang Lehner

Henry Hills

John Zorn

Stan Brakhage
Maya Deren
Jonas Mekas"
Wayne A. | Belfast, Northern Ireland | 09/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Just a note: I can't believe no one has yet reviewed her DVD collection of films. I can't believe this artist, once a key figure to any of us who devoted ourselves to the pre-hippie avant-garde of the US, seems to be fading in people's memories. I'll review it once I've seen the DVD and that should be soon.

Another figure from this period is the early electronic and music collage artist Tod Dockstader. His stuff is on CD and I particularly recommend the two discs from the Starkland label. This is not your usual electronica. I also recommend the indy flick "Carnival of Souls" to get a good sense of the American fringe zeitgeist of that time. Some of the classic original Twilight Zones also capture it.

I have to say it's kind of sad, a lot of cool stuff was created in this country during the postwar period up to the mid-sixties. Much of it had little to do with beatniks or hippies but their contributions (which I personally find over-rated but well-marketed) have kind of overshadowed some otherwise fine lost work."
A virtuous documentary on Maya Deren
Moira J. Sullivan | San Francisco and Stockholm | 12/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Maya Deren's life has been turned into a legend since her early death in 1961. An ambitious four-volume `docu-biography' (after a decade of Deren's neglect) begun in the mid- 1970's by Catrina Neiman, Millicent Hodson, Francine Bailey and Ve Ve Clark, receiving the cryptic title: The Legend of Maya Deren . Anthology Film Archives and their now defunct periodical Film Culture backed the project. Up until today only two volumes have been released and the others still await publication funds. Based on interviews with Deren's colleagues, and documentary material from the Boston Archives, the final volumes were intended to treat Deren's work in Voudoun and to include testimonies from her colleagues after her death.

In the meantime, Martina Kudlácek has assembled the pieces of Deren's biography brilliantly, interviewing artists such as dancer Rita Christiana, the "bride" in Ritual in Transfigured Time , editor Miriam Arsham, Chao-Li Chi who performed in Meditation on Violence (1948) , choreographer Katherine Dunham who did field studies in Haiti on ritual dance and apprenticed Deren within her repertoire, and Jean-Léon Destiné who taught at Dunham's dance studios in New York. Her film rectifies discrepancies in previous personal testimony from contemporaries and creates a compelling and credible documentary in almost every sense. "In the Mirror of Maya Deren" demonstrates how Deren's immersion into the principles of Voudoun deepened her understanding of dance in reverence to deity and broadened her artistic repertoire. It moreover provides a holistic insight into the many aspects of her work.

For research on the documentary, Martina Kudlácek - as others before her - went to Boston, where Deren's papers are housed (Boston University Mugar Library Special Collections) and New York, where her films are stored (Anthology Film Archives). Several shots in the film show Kudlácek's lingering fingers on the primary source material in these archives to prove she was there. One day Martina saw an ad at Anthology Film Archives in New York for someone - preferably a filmmaker - to put the films of Maya Deren in order, some of which were still in Deren's coffee cans. Kudlácek was meticulous about the task. She even discovered a missing student film Deren had directed in Toronto in the 1950's: "Ensemble for Somnambulists" : the blueprint for "The Very Eye of Night".Also included in the DVD as extra material is this priceless film, and the incomplete film "Witch's Cradle" made with Marcel Duchamp at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of this Century Gallery in NYC in 1944."