Rate Points :4.5
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Customer ReviewsA good insight
Rating Point :4 Helpful Point :0
Although shorter than I had hoped, this film allows outsiders a brief and rare glimpse into Haitian Voudoun ceremonies and practices. Sadely Maya was not the person who finished and produced this film, but I think those who did, did so in a loving memory to her, and I think she would be pleased. This is a excellent follow up to reading her book, "Divine Horsemen."
Excellent Footage of Voodoo
Rating Point :5 Helpful Point :4
Often in the media, especially Hollywood, Voodoo is given a bad name. The people that conjure up these images have never experience being in another country or even do research on that particular subject. They get their information from people who are just as ignorant as they are.
About ten years ago I saw this film at the Smithsonian and was fascinated by the culture of Haiti. Haiti is negatively portrayed because they are connected to their African ancestry and being the first black nation to declare their independence from France, they have endured ignorance and cruelty from the outside world. Deren, being of Russian descent, visits the country knowing the people and their religious beliefs. The people of Haiti are connected to the spirit and nature, like their African ancestors. Although her life was cut short, this film is a classical documentary of Caribbean history and the black diaspora.
A film assembled from 20.000 feet shot by Maya Deren
Rating Point :5 Helpful Point :47
"Divine Horsemen" is the name of Maya Derens monograph published in 1953, an account of the cosmology of Voudoun. The title was used by Teiji ( Mayas husband at the time of her death) and Cherel Ito in their assembled film made from Derens footage ( Deren by the way was born in Kiev in 1917 but lived in the USA from 1922 to her death in 1961). One of her largest frustrations was her inability to edit 20.000 feet of footage she shot in 1947, and 1949, 1954. This was primarily due to lack of funding and support from orthodox anthropologists where she was considered an encroacher on their revered territory. In a sense the Itos did editorial work for her after her death but it is important to recognize that this is not Derens. One does get a sense of her work with this video and what she tried to accomplish. The voice overs and animation are all the work of the Itos-- Derens own film was to use the sound she recorded in the field in Haiti and which she released as an album "The Voices of Haiti". The original footage is to be found at Anthology Film Archives in New York. This film shows the brilliance of Derens use of choreocinema in filming where she tried to respect the ceremonial logic of this beautiful religion.
Interesting early documentary, but lacks Derens touch
Rating Point :4 Helpful Point :0
A fan of Maya Derens other films (At Land, Meshes of the Afternoon, etc.), I had hoped to find the same feel in this one. These earlier films (particularly Ritual in Transfigured Time and Meditation on Violence) had a definite rhythm and a strong relationship to dance (and choreography). Since Deren went to Haiti to study dance, among other things, I assumed that I would see an - perhaps the ultimate - expression of her homage to movement. While the footage is good and the film stands as an excellent early (?) exercise in documentary, Derens touch is missing, unfortunately. Bear in mind that this film was put together posthumously by Derens third husband Teiji Ito and his wife. Thus, the film is somewhat collaborative, showing the benefit of Derens eye, but not her editing. While it is an interesting film, if you are a Deren fan then I would suggest viewing it as a collaborative film, or perhaps an Ito film, rather than a Deren film.
One more side note, if you are upset seeing animals being slaughtered, there are a few scenes (relatively close together) where chickens, a goat, and a steer are mutilated and killed. Nothing too brutal, but still harsh enough.
"Around The Centerpost Beyond Good And Evil"
Rating Point :5 Helpful Point :12
Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti is an incredible visual document chronicling authentic Haitian Voundoun practices as theyve never been viewed by the public-at-large before. Filmed between 47 and 51 by the legendary cult filmmaker and author Maya Deren who was an initiate into these religious practices, her involvement made it possible for her to gain access into its most intimate circles and record songs, rituals and festivals long hidden from the eyes of the unbeliever. The documentary is extraordinary in every way and of immense educational value to anyone in the fields of comparative religions, anthropology, ethnology, musicology or psychology. Divine Horsemen covers almost every conceivable aspect of the Voundoun experience:
1- Foundational beliefs and the background from which they sprang.
2- Clear explanations of the three Voundoun cults (Rada, Petro and Congo), their origins and the differences in their practices.
3- Voundoun cosmology, the Deities and their hierarchical positioning.
4- Discussion of the various symbols and signets used to express Voudoun concepts and the different engeries to be released the by Gods.
5- A close up and personal viewing of the rituals, festivals and songs utilized by the various cults to call upon the Deities and the process of possession.
6- Explanations of the various roles acted out by the practitioners and their societal standing.
Divine Horsemen is only 52 minutes in length but it packs a lot of information into its allotted time. Definitely not geared for an evening with the family, but certainly an undiscovered gem for those chosen few with an open mind and a receptive heart.
One of the essentials to any library dealing with the realm of the mystical. My Rating: -5 Stars-.