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Introduction
1953

Maya Deren founds the Film Artists Society, New York

"Maya Deren publicly and insistently proclaimed the need for a new art cinema, envisioned the conceptual and material means to build one, and actively saw to its implementation"
Bill Nichols, Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde, 2001, p.5

Maya Deren's influential avant-garde films of the 1940s, in particular the iconic Meshes of the Afternoon, would have been sufficient to ensure her status as a key figure within experimental film culture in postwar America. During the 1950s, Deren's contribution to filmmaking was limited to the ballet film The Very Eye of Nigh (1954, released in 1958), and the uncompleted footage from her Guggenheim-funded stay on Haiti, which included 20,000 feet of film, as well as audio recordings and stills, an experiment in visual anthropology exploring Voudoun ritual dance. This material was assembled posthumously by Deren's husband Teiji Ito and his second wife Cherel, and released in 1977 under the same title as Deren's 1953 book on Haitian religion: Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. Maya Deren's legacy is however not restricted to her films; her legendary status was achieved just as much through her relentless work as an organiser of screenings and lectures, and she also expressed her ideas about filmmaking in theoretical essays. Furthermore, in 1953 she founded a network for avant-garde and experimental filmmakers, eventually named The Creative Film Foundation. In collaboration with the film society Cinema 16, the foundation awarded prizes to experimental filmmakers, and Deren's efforts to facilitate artistic film experiments would therefore continue to play a significant role in the film culture of the following decades, despite her premature death in 1961.

Ingrid Stigsdotter

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Maya Deren

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