The better Maya…Deren

With studying film-making, I am started to also learn about the creators behind it. I ended up finding an amazing cinematographer with the same name as me.

Her name is Maya Deren, and she is known as one of the most influential experimental filmmakers in America. She sought to make a film where the audience would experience something, and evoke a unique emotion that they have not felt before.

Deren was ahead of her time. She began doing films in the 1940’s and 1950’s, creating small-budget films with a experimental twist on it all. It was bizarre to everyone, but she wanted to push the limits.

As a young woman Deren studied journalism and political science and became active in student politics at Syracuse University. After her schooling, she began expanding her knowledge on the arts. She joined  Katherine Dunham Dance Company, touring and performing across the US. It was in Los Angeles in 1941 that Deren met Alexander Hammid, a Czechoslovakian filmmaker working in Hollywood. In collaboration with Hammid, Deren produced her first and most remarkable experimental film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943).

People assume that she had no part in Meshes, but it is quite clear that she had a part. When she began doing films of her own, her style was unlike any other. She made one film called At Land (1944), where she is the star. This one is particularly my favorite because the symbolism behind it is rather beautiful. The overall theme is about identity, and how one is on the pursuit of finding it.

She has plenty more films but I have seen only a few. Another work she has done is Study of Choreography through the Camera (1945). This one depicts the movement of the body through dance, and since it is a silent film, you can appreciate the movement even more.

On top of being an amazing filmmaker and dancer, she is also a choreographer, film theorist, poet, lecturer, writer and photographer. What can’t she do?

She spent her last years going around the world teaching experimental films to others. She has even wrote a book. She is an intelligent woman, who has an amazing insight on the reality of images and how it corresponds with art. I am pleased to share a name with her!


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