Synopsis by David Lewis
Although Maya Deren's vast, unfinished anthropological film of Haitian ritual dancing was pulled together in 1977 into a conventional documentary, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, since then it has also become customary to exhibit Deren's footage as she shot it, slates and all, all four hours of it. That is, as much as can be seen of her original conception under current conditions. When Teiji Ito and Cherel Ito assembled Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti in the 1970s, it unwittingly made a jumble out of some of the original material. Nonetheless, the finished documentary remains a decent introduction to what Deren may have had in mind. the Haitian Film Footage was shot on Deren's trips to Haiti in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1954. It was never completed by her, but not for lack of trying; as Deren was not a trained anthropologist, she was unable to get institutional funding for the project. The footage was finally grouped into 17 reels representing parts of different ceremonies, and that was as far as Deren was able to take it. In the 21st century the anthropological community are grateful to Deren, as she managed to preserve a way of life that has been destroyed by logging, political unrest, poverty, and the total breakdown of the social order in Haiti.