Derrida

Year: 2002
Country: USA
Running time: 84 mins
USA

Producer: Amy Ziering Kofman
Photography: Kirsten Johnson
Editors: Kirby Dick, Matt Clarke
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto
In English and French, with English subtitles

With
Jacques Derrida
Derrida is easily the most intellectually challenging documentary in the competition [at Sundance]. This look at the life and thought of the French philosopher and father of deconstruction is also an invigorating and refreshing tonic for tired minds. Made with Jacques Derrida’s cooperation and enhanced by a Ryuichi Sakamoto score, the film is at its best when the man is being interviewed and his powerful, agile intellect takes over. ‘Everything is fake in cinema verité’ is only one of many trenchant comments made about everything from the myth of Echo and Narcissus to the sex lives of philosophers. — Kenneth Turan, LA Times

There may be few subjects as intimidating to undertake as French deconstructive philosopher Jacques Derrida, a man who has spent his life thinking and writing about the precise functions and meanings of language, text, biography, and the borderlines between thought and reality. The directors of Derrida, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, wisely aim for an accessible sketch rather than a definitive explication. Although it contains long segments of indifferently-shot video footage of Derrida lecturing in various locations, the film cunningly incorporates some of the through-the-looking-glass elements of Derrida’s thought, turns the seams of the filmmaking process inside out so as not to ‘naturalize what is not natural’, and mixes Derrida’s theory with mundane moments of everyday life. The stylistic choices are surprisingly effective, and the result is instructive, inspirational, and unexpectedly moving. — Rachel Rosen, Film Comment

We can be so resistant to theory, especially in America, and especially in film. When wrestling the film into its final shape there was a constant risk that we could fail, but I like that. Sick presented a similar challenge. To be truthful, we had to push very close to an extreme edge in our presentation of S/M sexuality – but those extreme moments make the experience of watching the film startlingly cinematic. Likewise, in Derrida, the ‘startling’ moments are the readings of his work. The struggle to comprehend them becomes an adventure in itself, one from which you emerge larger. Amy and I had to proceed in the faith that thought at Derrida’s level could somehow translate into a richly cinematic experience. — Kirby Dick

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