San Francisco Cinematheque presents
Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera

Author Mark Alice Durant appears in person to present three films by groundbreaking filmmaker Maya Deren (1917–1961) and to read from his book Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera, an engrossingly impressionistic biography of the enigmatic artist, discussing at length her passions for filmmaking and a life filled with bohemian intrigue and spiritual questing.

San Francisco Cinematheque presents:
Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera

With Mark Alice Durant

Screening in 16mm
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
At Land (1944)
Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946)

Sunday, June 18, 2023

7PM Doors
7:30PM Screening

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Seated Program

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, San Francisco Cinematheque)

Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera

Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera will be available for purchase at this screening and are also available in Cinematheque’s online bookstore.

Mark Alice Durant’s new biography of the filmmaker [is] thrilling and terrifying. It’s the tale of an artist who, in the mid-nineteen-forties, in the span of four years, by the age of thirty, remade her artistic world—drastically and definitively.
(Richard Brody, the New Yorker)

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)


Mark Alice Durant

Mark Alice Durant is an artist, writer and publisher living in Baltimore. He is author of Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera, 27 Contexts: An Anecdotal History in Photography, Robert Heinecken: A Material History and co-author of Blur of the Otherworldly: Contemporary Art, Technology and the Paranormal. His essays have appeared in numerous journals such as Aperture, Art in America, Photograph Magazine, Dear Dave and many catalogs, monographs and anthologies including Rania Matar: She, Seeing Science: How Photography Reveals the Universe and Vik Muniz Seeing is Believing. He has served on the faculties of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UCLA, the University of New Mexico, Syracuse University and the Milton Avery Graduate School for the Arts at Bard College. Currently he teaches in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Maryland. Durant is publisher/editor of Saint Lucy Books.

Maya Deren

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.


San Francisco Cinematheque

Founded in 1961, San Francisco Cinematheque cultivates the international field of non-commercial artist-made cinema through curated exhibitions, through the creation of publications and by maintaining a publicly accessible research archive. Cinematheque’s work inspires aesthetic dialog between artists, stimulates critical discourse, and encourages appreciation of artist-made cinema across the broader cultural landscape. With a grounding in non-commercial, non-narrative and non-documentary filmmaking traditions, Cinematheque’s programs broaden the public’s understanding of non-mainstream artistic filmmaking practice while expanding and challenging established art- and film historical traditions.

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