Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera

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On the occasion of the publication of Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera (2022; St. Lucy Books) San Francisco Cinematheque and Gray Area welcome Deren biographer Mark Alice Durant who will appear in person to discuss this book and present three films by Deren: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), At Land (1944) and Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946).  

She is sealed behind glass. Her fingertips press lightly on the transparent surface as if to confirm the barrier between the interior and exterior. The window is a medium of dueling functions—reflecting and transmitting. She looks out at the world full of things and people, but is aware of herself as an image, as the camera sees her. She is appearing in a film she is making with her husband, Sasha. They call it a “home movie.” (Mark Alice Durant; from the prologue to Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera)

Ukrainian-born Eleanora Derenkowsky—better known as Maya Deren (1917–1961)—is one of the most influential figures in American avant-garde cinema. Her Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)—with its circling semi-narrative and its groundbreaking use of creative cinematography and dreamlike associative montage—remaining to this day, infinitely new, deeply inspiring and prescient in its subtly defiant feminism and disdain for domesticity while works such as At Land (1944) and A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) are enduringly shocking in their use of creative geography and motion. Proclaimed by filmmaker Stan Brakhage as “the mother of us all,” Deren was also a fierce advocate for personal cinema, composing the visionary theoretical text An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film in 1946 and presenting underground screenings in New York City which set the model for today’s network of independent microcinemas and film festivals. With a life story saturated with mystery, self-mythology, bohemian intrigue and spiritual questing, Deren’s fascinating tale is told in Mark Alice Durant’s Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera (2022) an engrossingly impressionistic biography of the enigmatic artist, discussing at length her passions for filmmaking and dance and her deep personal experience with the spirituality and ritual of Haitian Vodou. This special screening/reading will include author Mark Alice Durant reading excerpts from the book, with screenings in 16mm of Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), At Land (1944) and Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946). (Steve Polta)

Drawing from a treasure trove of archival materials, Durant gives a vivid account of the swath Maya Deren cut through the modernist century. Durant’s gorgeous writing captures how, in Deren’s hands, cinema is a devotion to life itself. (Laura U. Marks)

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Admission: $15/12 Cinematheque Members
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Gray Area / Grand Theater - San Francisco, United States


Sunday, June 18, 2023 - 19:30



Sunday, June 18, 2023 - 19:30
  • 2665 Mission Street
    94110   San Francisco, California
    United States
    Phone: +1 415.843.1423
    37° 45' 15.8112" N, 122° 25' 6.6108" W