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

Watch: 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 brief, 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 not 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 what she didn’t previously know that she would experience. Often, in the media, especially in Hollywood-produced content, Voodoo/Voudou/Vodun/Vodou is depicted pessimistically. The people that conjure up these images likely have never experienced the religion, nor even done proper research on it. Deren’s approach is notably different. 

It’s not necessarily your typical Maya Deren film, but I should note that it 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, albeit via the lens of an *outsider*. But it’s more of an observational documentary.

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

I found the film online in full. Watch the edited 60-minute documentary below:

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