Maya Deren was a Ukrainian-born American experimental filmmaker and important part of the avant-garde in the 1940s and 1950s. Deren was also a choreographer, dancer, film theorist, poet, lecturer, writer, and photographer.
The function of film, Deren believed, was to create an experience. She combined her expertise in dance and choreography, ethnography, the African spirit religion of Haitian Vodou, symbolist poetry and gestalt psychology (student of Kurt Koffka) in a series of perceptual, black-and-white short films. Using editing, multiple exposures, jump-cutting, superimposition, slow-motion, and other camera techniques to her advantage, Deren abandoned established notions of physical space and time, innovating through carefully planned films with specific conceptual aims.
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), her collaboration with her husband at the time Alexander Hammid, has been one of the most influential experimental films in American cinema history.