Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maya Deren's "The Divine Horsemen", good because it's not what you'd assume it would be

Which is why I rented it. What would you think of when someone told you about a film exploring Haitian Voodoo? Probably that it would be a lurid expose in the style of the Mondo movies, i.e. movies that go out to exotic locations and purposefully try to find the most bizarre seeming rituals and activities to present to Western audiences for entertainment, the point being how weird and primitive all the colored people are. "Divine Horsemen" succeeds because not only is it respectful but it also intellectually engages the subject.

Deren's film for the most part portrays normal looking Haitian people carrying out rituals, and is organized by first giving a brief overview of the whole and then moving on to examine each major god on its own. The vevers or signs of each god are shown on a black screen with a voice over introducing him or her then footage of rituals involving the god are shown with additional voiceover talking about the particular character of the god more in depth, with comments on why the god is appealed to and how they manifest themselves, which is illustrated by the people being possessed by the god as well. Turns out that the film is based on a book by the same name by Deren, and it shows in that it comes off as something where the focus is on the content of the words being said as opposed to purely on cinematography.

Highly recommended for an interesting and well put together presentation on Afro-Caribbean religion.

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