Born in Kiev in 1917, Maya Deren emigrated to the United States with her parents a few years later, grew up mainly in Syracuse, New York, and attended Syracuse University. A social activist from her teens, she became interested first in dance and subsequently in filmmaking. Throughout the 1950s, until her premature death in 1961 at the age of 44, Maya Deren was a leading exponent of experimental cinema and considered one of its most influential artists. She first traveled to Haiti to film dances in 1947, and returned in following years for lengthy stays. The work in Haiti led to the classic ethnographic study, Divine Horsemen, written with the encouragement of Joseph Campbell, as well as audio recordings and a documentary film which was later edited by Teiji and Cherel Ito. A two-hour documentary on Maya Deren and her work was produced for BBC television in 1987.