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

From: David Baker (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Mar 02 2010 - 13:07:00 PST

At the presentation on Jan.26,
the audience had the benefit of
Dr. Yvonne Daniel's insight (see: "Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge
In Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomble").
Dr. Daniel's made clear that from an ethnographic
perspective Deren had managed to obtain access and
record rituals never before or since documented.
As an expert Dr. Daniel's was seeing things in the film utterly unknown
to her.
It never occurred to me that you would construe my words to mean Deren
was the ONLY
person to document Voudoun cultural practices.
(Semantics is not my metier.)

Chuck you press me hard to this material and for that you have my
Maya Deren's "Unedited Haitian Footage"
is much more then an ethnographic record.
(No doubt Deren owes a debt to Katherine Dunham
in the way she uses dance as an organizing principle in this work of

When Jonas Mekas refers to "Maya's HAITI" as a cathedral
you better know he has it exactly right.
Thankfully for now our debate is rendered moot
by the veracity of his CONVICTION.

("it definitely shall be so"),


On Mar 2, 2010, at 11:44 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>.