No money in it. Only love of cinema: This caveat was posted at the Anthology Film Archive in New York.


In July of 1997 filmmaker Jonas Mekas was looking for an idealist with expert knowledge who was willing to organize the holdings on avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren. He was unsuccessful. Failing to get a response, he took down the announcement after a few weeks. By pure coincidence, Martina Kudlácek, who had spent a great deal of time studying Deren's work, passed by at that moment and learned of Mekas' unsuccessful search. The director calls this type of event with what she calls the grace of the encounter,and it provides the basis of every documentary. It seems as if, she claimed, the subject had suddenly found me. The innumerable hours she spent at the archive over the next few months gave her the final push to make her own film about the artist. In the Mirror of Maya Deren, Martina Kudlácek's first full-length work, is an attempt to portray the many-layered personality of this exceptional woman.

Kudlácek first became acquainted with Deren and her work in books on film theory while she was studying photography. This was the beginning of a long journey for Martina Kudlácek. She applied to the FAMU film school in Prague, first studying cinematography, and graduated with a degree in the direction of documentaries. To an extent I was so isolated in that world, she remembers, but at the same time it gave me the chance to work on my inner voice, the world inside me. Her documentary on Maya Deren was to become a travelogue through the other filmmaker's inner world. Studying in Prague provided Kudlácek with an opportunity to research the beginnings of Czech avant-garde film. Alexander Hammid, its most prominent representative, had emigrated to New York, married Maya Deren and cooperated with her on one of the most important American experimental films, Meshes of the Afternoon. Her correspondence with Hammid grew into a true friendship, and his first invitation to visit him in the mid 90s was the beginning of a bridge between Vienna, Prague and the center of Deren's activity, New York.

In 1996 Kudlácek dedicated a 50-minute film essay entitled Aimless Walk to Alexander Hammid. Mainly intuitively though with a specific goal in mind, the director traced her protagonist's footsteps, which become increasingly distinct as Kudlácek was drawn further along on this journey of discovery. After her first meetings with the interviewees who appear in her film "Hammid was 92 when shooting began" the director realized what a great privilege it was that she could meet so many of Deren's contemporaries at such a late stage in their lives. The result, remembers Kudlácek, was a feeling of responsibility toward this chapter of film history, which stemmed from my opportunity to preserve this knowledge.

Excerpts of interviews with Hammid, dancer Rita Christiani, Amos Vogel, cutter Miriam Arsham, the current head of IMAX Graeme Ferguson and tai chi instructor Chao Li Chi bring to life a figure which still possesses a distinct presence in their memories, even years after Deren's death in 1961. In the Mirror of Maya Deren tells the story of this muse and untamed beauty, the unfathomable daughter of the sea, the rhythm-obsessed dancer who lost herself in a voodoo trance, the attention-hungry activist who first arranged screenings of experimental films in movie theaters, and the fragile dreamwalker who devoured her own vital energies. In the course of doing the research,"claimed Kudlácek, I realized that Maya Deren was idolized to a great extent, which often served as a distraction from her work. But she was much more than this film goddess and voodoo priestess. It was extremely exciting to show how she gradually made the medium her own and discover what she was struggling against. And above all, I hope that this film makes people aware of the power of poetry in life."