Alexander Hammid, one of the founders of modern Czech photography
, was born 1907 in Linz, Austria. He grew up in Prag, where he directed his first film Aimless Walk
in 1930. Later he worked as a cinematographer with the American director Herbert Kline
on the documentaries Crisis
and Lights out in Europe
. He was forced in 1939 to flee to the United States because of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi
In 1941 he directed with Herbert Kline The Forgotten Village, a film about a Mexican village and its resistance to medical and educational change. In the next year in Los Angeles he met Maya Deren, who was working as an assistant to Katherine Dunham at the time, and married her briefly after. He was the one who suggested her the name Maya, the Hindu word for illusion. Their first film collaboration Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) became one of the most influential and known avant garde films. In 1946 Hammid made The Private Life of a Cat, a poetic documentary about a cat family that was considered indecent by the New York State censors and banned in 1948 because it contained moving birth sequences.
Throughout the 1950s Hammid worked for the UN-Film Division. In 1964 Hammid and Francis Thompson, won an Oscar for their triple screen film To Be Alive! in the category for best short documentary. With their films they became the pioneers of the Expanded Cinema. In 1976 their first IMAX-film To Fly!, the most successful and most seen IMAX-film till today, had its premiere.