Leading American avant-garde filmmaker sometimes referred to as the "mother of the Underground film. " In the US from the early 20s, Deren was intending to write a book about dance and accompanying Katherine Dunham on a national tour when she met Czech documentarian Alexander Hammid, who in 1942 became her second husband. Her first film, the surrealistic "Meshes of the Afternoon" (1943, 18 minutes) was a landmark in the history of American cinema, a psychosexually-themed "trance film" co-directed with Hammid. A striking beauty, Deren played the lead herself -- that of a young girl who claims to have been sexually molested, but one is not sure if the molestation is real or the result of a dream. The theme of dream vs. reality would play handily in Deren's future works as well. In her next work, "At Land" (1944, 15 minutes), Deren continued her subjectivist filmic odysseys and brought to the fore her concern with the manipulation of space and time, a recurrent preoccupation which resurfaced in "Ritual in Transfigured Time" (1946, 16 minutes), a formally daring exploration of dance and ritual.
Deren also lectured extensively and helped establish New York's "underground" film circuit, setting up avant-garde screening venues which gave birth to independent distribution houses such as Amos Vogel's Cinema 16. An insightful and articulate writer, she authored "The Divine Horseman: The Living God of Haiti" (1953), the result of a trip to Haiti which was to be the basis of a film, and the seminal "An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film" (1946). A documentary on her life and legacy, "Invocation Maya Deren" was released in 1987.