– fordi tiden kræver et MODSPIL

06. May 2007

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti


Hvordan ser en gud ud? Denne film giver et bud, eller rettere op til flere, idet den viser flere haitianske guder eller loaer ("ryttere", i titlens metafor) inkarneret i deres "ridedyr", de mennesker, de besætter i de ritualer, hvori de manifesterer sig.

Den amerikanske filminstruktør Maya Deren gik i 1947 igang med en film om haitiansk dans, og 1947, 1949 og 1954 drog hun til Haiti, hvor hun dokumenterede landets vodoun-ceremonier i filmoptagelser omfattende tusindvis af meter, som vi læser i nr. 17 af New Age-tidsskriftet Greylodge Occult Review:
Deren's ethnographic contributions to the study of Haitian Voudoun include not only 20.000 feet of ceremony but recordings of rituals and folk music, a mythological study of the religion--"Divine Horsemen", articles, lectures and television and radio appearances. Her interest in ethnographic dance began in the early 1940's before her filmmaking career was launched, as secretary to choreographer Katherine Dunham. Dunham whose mentor was anthropologist Melville Herskovits had been to Haiti, studied dance and even filmed in 16mm. Through her, Deren met several of her dancers and craftsmen - some of whom were to later collaborate in her films: Talley Beatty, Rita Christiani and lyricist John LaTouche. With access to Dunham's research she wrote an early series of articles about religious possession in dance with a focus on the "personality of the possessed". Later with the publication of "Divine Horsemen " the "individual" is obliterated, serving as a vehicle for the "loa "(gods). This also corresponded with formal concerns in film beginning with "Ritual in Transfigured Time ", where the individual becomes a part of a larger collective consciousness. Deren tackled the interrelationship between magic, science and religion which according to Bronislaw Malinowski was the apex of modernism. This research was interrupted during her early years as a filmmaker and returned to full circle with the Haitian footage and discourse written during the 1940's and 1950's, illustrating a foundation of knowledge that accompanied her as a filmmaker into a Haitian "hounfor "(temple).

Although Deren abandoned a preliminary plan for a film in Haiti it is important to emphasize ceremonial footage shot in Haiti embracing principles of choreocinema. Her initial filmmaking project grew out of a collaboration with Gregory Bateson and inspired by his review of the arrangement of cultural artefacts at the 1946 South Sea Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Bateson compared it to a symphony where themes introduced were picked up in another movement. Deren requested to loan Balinese footage from Margaret Mead and Bateson from their field work of the 1930's to be edited into a "cross-cultural fugue" of Haitian and Balinese ritual and Western children's game. Deren intended to link these three themes as a "cinepoem ""in "choreocinematic " form. In field studies she noted the articulations of a mythical discipline which infused matter with spirit and in order to respect the "ceremonial logic" in representation, abandoned her "cinepoem".

Not long after arriving in Haiti Deren decided on extensive documentation of Haitian Voudoun ceremony. Retakes within this material are extremely rare. On the back of Deren's Bolex was taped "Speed Stop Focus Finder Motor". These prompts allowed her to safeguard shots that could never be redone as she would "shoot to cut " to eliminate post-editing and "plan by eye "- prepare a visual shorthand of the pro-filmic event. The traditional use of footage accompanied by expert witness and testimony was rejected for a film with music. Aware of the potential of documentary film to create a fiction through editing, Deren was determined to represent Voudoun rituals with respect to their mythic origin. With this goal, she was successful which not only the footage but "Divine Horsemen" confirms.
Da jeg for år tilbage lavede research til min artikel om Sydamerikas levende guder (Faklen nr. 12, 1999), voldte det mig en del besvær at finde frem til denne film på video.

Idag ligger denne fascinerende og usædvanlige film til download på nettet, bl.a. hos Ubuweb, der også har alle avantgarde-filmskaberen Derens øvrige film.

Kan ses i Flash-format herover, eller downloades via bit-torrent eller direkte (121 Mb, MPEG4-format). Læs mere om Maya Deren her.