Re: Let them eat unedited film ( was: Maya's Haiti footage, etc.)

From: David Baker (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Mar 02 2010 - 13:07:08 PST


You're inquiry regarding Deren's sound recordings is prescient.
Deren's extensive field recordings in Haiti may well prove to be as
as Hugh Tracey,Alan Lomax or our own Harry Smith's contribution to

The "Unedited Footage" stands as a work of art silently however.


On Mar 2, 2010, at 12:15 PM, Myron Ort wrote:

> Good points Chuck.
> Harold Courlander published his "Haiti Singing" in 1939. He also
> collected music some of which appears on early Folkways LPs. Life
> Magazine photographer Earl Leaf published "Isles Of Rhythm" in 1948,
> his travels obviously predate this.
> "...Courlander took his first field trip to Haiti, inspired by the
> writings of William Buehler Seabrook. In 1939, he published his
> first book about Haitian life entitled Haiti Singing. Over the next
> 30 years, he traveled to Haiti more than 20 times. His research
> focused on religious practices, African retentions, oral traditions,
> folklore, music, and dance. His book, The Drum and the Hoe: Life and
> Lore of the Haitian People, published in 1960, became a classic text
> for the study of Haitian culture."
> Myron Ort
> On Mar 2, 2010, at 8:44 AM, Chuck Kleinhans wrote:
>> On Feb 24, 2010, at 12:13 PM, David Baker wrote:
>>> I would argue there has never been a better time to
>>> bring Deren's Haitian vision to bear on the here and now.
>>> She witnessed with her camera cultural practices that have never
>>> been documented before or since,the Living Gods
>>> and ancestors of Haiti made manifest through her lens .
>> For the record and hopefully to short-circuit more legend making:
>> Voudoun cultural practices in fact were witnessed, documented, and
>> "made manifest" well before Deren arrived in Haiti for the first
>> time. The African American dancer and choreographer Katherine
>> Dunham travelled to the Caribbean in 1935-36 for research in Haiti
>> for research for her M.A. thesis in anthropology at the University
>> of Chicago: "Dances of Haiti, Their Social Organization,
>> Classification, Form and Function" (1937). Dunham took photos and
>> shot some film of the dances. The thesis was eventually published
>> in English, Spanish, and French.
>> And African American writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston also
>> travelled to Jamaica and Haiti in 1937 and after living in Haiti
>> for a year published her book of Haitian Voudoun stories, Tell My
>> Horse, and also Life in Haiti in 1938.
>> Deren, of course, knew of Dunham's work since Deren was her
>> personal secretary and assistant for 9 months, starting in Spring
>> 1941. In 1947 Deren made her first trip to Haiti. But when she
>> published her book, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti in
>> 1953, she chose to not mention Dunham or Dunham's thesis, and also
>> did not mention Hurston's work. Indeed, she left them out of her
>> bibliography in the book and in her introduction misleadingly
>> claims that in 1947 "there was virtually no precedent for the
>> filming of ceremonies".
>>> Make no mistake Deren's unedited footage is one of the most
>>> important cultural documents
>>> by one of the most consequential practitioners in the history of
>>> experimental film,
>>> as gender specific as it is emphatically black in its cultural
>>> perspective.
>> Precisely how Deren's unedited footage (of which David Baker says
>> he's seen only about 45 minutes) is "gender specific" and
>> "emphatically black" remains to be explained.
>> Is Deren's footage somehow more "gender specific" and "emphatically
>> black" than Dunham's? Dunham included some of her film footage in
>> concert dances she choreographed and performed.
>> He also claims that the "entire 'unedited footage' may in fact be
>> the only legitimate FORM this film can take" which puts aside the
>> audio recordings Deren made, some of which can be heard on the Ito
>> edit of the footage as Divine Horsemen. Since the Voundoun dances
>> are done to music, how is silent footage of the ceremonies
>> regarded? Since Deren apparently did not shoot synch sound in
>> Haiti, how should we understand this form?
>> If the unedited footage is 'the only legitimate FORM" what should
>> we make of the fact that Deren appeared on Canadian CBC televiison,
>> and the US CBS TV show Vanity Fair in 1950 with her Haitian
>> footage. She also made a proposal for a film on Voudoun for the TV
>> series Omnibus which was never made.
>> Chuck Kleinhans
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.