Marfa Film Festival will close the 2018 year with a tribute to one of the most significant experimental filmmakers.





Russian-born American filmmaker, poet, writer, photographer, choreographer, and theorist Maya Deren (1917–1961) endures as one of the most significant independent experimental filmmakers and innovators of avant-garde cinema. 

Equivocal and unclassifiable, Deren actively rejected categorization and refused the definition of her films as surrealist, formalist or structuralist; often referred to as the archetypal example of independence, she was a filmmaker who managed to avoid the institutional regulations of American cinema. 


Maya Deren | Programed by KB Thomason | 75mins.



Maya Deren used form to reveal receptive, nonlinear perspective; she sought to move away from, and to transcend the linear dramatic narrative favored by Hollywood films, the kind that moves from point A to point B to tell a story in a manner she described as “horizontal in attack.” She was, instead, intent on expressing emotional qualities and depth through a poetic unerstanding of film composition, a process she described as “vertical investigations”. “A truly creative work of art,” she felt, “creates an entirely new reality.” The function of film, Deren believed, like most art forms, was to create an experience; to employ the logic of dream, myth and ritual in order to evoke new conclusions.

Through manipulating cinematic forms in a series of phantasmagorical, perceptual, black-and-white short films; she synthesized an amalgamation of her interests in rhythm, movement, subjective psychology, habits of perception, simultaneous realities, postulations on identity and filmmaking, as a tool, towards temporal-spacial distortion. Innovating styles of cutting as deliberate progressions across discontinuous spaces, she utilized experimentation in multiple exposures, jump cutting, superimposition, slow-motion, and other somatically channeled camera techniques to her fullest advantage, creating continued motion through discontinued space, while abandoning the established notions of physical space and time, turning her vision into a stream of consciousness. Her “trance film’s” dream-like mise-en-scène, illogical narrative trajectory, fluid gesture, symbolic diversion and ambient sound design invite a type of contemplative, transcendental, involvement for the spectator.

Deren’s legacy is both abstract and palpable. In 1946, she was the first filmmaker awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for "Creative Work in the Field of Motion Pictures," and won the Grand Prix Internationale for 16mm experimental film at the Cannes Film Festival for Meshes of the Afternoon. In addition to her filmmaking, Deren lectured, taught, and wrote extensively on independent film. As part of her dedicated promotion of avant-garde film as an art form, she founded the Creative Film Foundation, which provided funding and support for independent filmmakers. Her major theoretical work, An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film, was published in 1946.