Back to IndieWire

Watch Now Maya Deren’s Doc on Vodou – ‘Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti’

Watch Now Maya Deren's Doc on Vodou - 'Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti'

I’ve been mining online streaming/video sharing sites lately for classics that should be revisited, hence a number of recent posts inviting you to watch films you may/may not have ever seen for one reason or another.

Like this one…

In short, filmed between 1947 and 1951, by lauded experimental filmmaker, Maya Deren, “Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti,” is a narrated documentary film that takes the viewer on a journey into the world of the Voudoun religion of Haiti.

Although best known as a pioneer of independent experimental cinema, Deren was also a Voudoun initiate, and was hence able to take her camera and recorder where few had and still have gone before or since, to document what you see below.

Maya reportedly went first to Haiti as an artist, to make a film about Haitian dance. But, given that the music and the religion where inextricably connected, she became enraptured, and opened herself up to the messages within the wellspring of the mysteries she experienced. Often in the media, especially in Hollywood-produced content, Voodoo/Voudou/Vodun/Vodou is depicted pessimistically. The people that conjure up these images often likely have never experienced the religion, nor even done proper research on it. Deren’s approach is certainly different. 

It’s not necessarily your typical Maya Deren film, but I should note that, its was actually edited together posthumously by Deren’s 3rd husband and his wife. So, the film is somewhat collaborative, showing the benefit of Deren’s eye, since she shot the footage, but not her editing. But it’s an interesting film, and worth a look – a snapshot of a past-time.

There was also the book of the same name, which includes photographs and drawings, and an intimate study, movingly written with special first-person insight, which was first published in 1953.

Watch the edited 60-minute documentary below:

This Article is related to: Features and tagged