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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 29 April 1917Kiev, Russia [now Ukraine]
Date of Death 13 October 1961Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA  (cerebral hemorrhage)
Birth NameEleanora Derenkovskaya

Mini Bio (1)

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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Moira Sullivan, mjsull@algonet.se

Spouse (3)

Teiji Ito (1960 - 13 October 1961) (her death)
Alexander Hammid (1942 - 1947) (divorced)
Gregory Bardacke (? - ?)

Trivia (2)

In 1986, the American Film Institute created the Maya Deren Award to honor independent film and video artists.
Biography: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945," pp. 222-226. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.

Personal Quotes (2)

Art actually is based on the notion that if you would really celebrate an idea or a principle, you must think, you must plan, you must put yourself completely in the state of devotion, and not simply give the first thing that comes to your head.
[on filmmaking] It would be so much easier to be a painter or a writer. You don't have to have equipment. You don't have to do all the things. You're not at the mercy of the laboratories. You're not here and you're not there. It's a terrible pain to be a filmmaker, because you not only have the creative problems, but you have financial problems that they don't have. You have technical problems that they don't have. You have machines that are breaking down in a way that paintbrushes don't break down. It's just a terrible thing to be a filmmaker. And if you are a filmmaker, it's because there is something in the sheer medium that seems to be able to make some sort of statement that you particularly want to make, and which no other medium to you seems capable of making in the same way.

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