Beacon Film Festival: Spotlight On Maya Deren

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Join us for an evening of cinematic exploration with Young Film Programmer, Elliot Auxant's, double bill showcasing female talent behind & in front of the camera.

Elliot has chosen to shine a spotlight on Maya Deren, one of the most influential figures in American avant-garde cinema.

Born in Kiev in 1917 Deren was only five years-old when, together with her parents, she arrived in the USA in 1922, having fled anti-Semitic pogroms in Ukraine. Following her studies in journalism and political science at Syracuse University and NYU in 1936, she went on to pursue a masters degree in English literature from Smith College. When her films began to appear in the 1940s, it was still incredibly rare for women to become filmmakers. Despite her short life (Deren died at the age of 44 in New York), she left behind a small but hugely important body of work, with several landmark avant-garde short films, two books and many writings in the Village Voice and other publications.

Meshes Of The Afternoon (1943) It was amid the turmoil of the Second World War that Deren collaborated with Czech cinematographer Alexander Hammid to make her surreal 14-minute debut, in which Deren herself appears as the enigmatic woman in the window. The two got married, and, while Hammid was working in Hollywood, he taught Deren the mechanics of filmmaking to help realise her vision. The result is a remarkable achievement that presents the nightmarish narrative of two lovers in a dreamlike and poetic psychodrama. Run time: 14 mins

At Land (1944) Deren's thematic preoccupation with the human body, its movement and the process of filmmaking, begins to take shape in her second film, which draws some of its power from jump-cuts and the juxtaposition of spaces. Shot by the sea in Amagansett, Long Island, it features Deren herself again, as a woman washed up on the shore. She climbs up a dead tree, then is suddenly crawling on a dinner table, unnoticed by the party guests. Deren cuts from the seashore to the dinner party and back again to the seashore. At Land is an inimitable study of social rituals and the human body's place in nature.

Run time: 15 mins Text courtesy of Georgia Korossi - BFI Total run time: 30 mins Distributor: Lux Programmed by Elliot Auxant

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