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November 8 2002 | Kenneth Turan
To paraphrase Raymond Chandler, French philosopher Jacques Derrida is smart the way other people think they're smart. And the great pleasure of DERRIDA, an absolutely first-rate documentary about his life and thought that is the cinematic equivalent of a mind-expanding drug, is how invigorating and refreshing it is to be in the presence of such a powerful, agile intellect. MORE
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October 23 2002 | Elvis Mitchell
DERRIDA, the adoring and adorable documentary on the philosopher Jacques Derrida by the filmmakers Kirby Dick ("Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist") and Amy Ziering Kofman, presents Mr. Derrida, the so-called father of deconstruction, as quick-witted and impish. MORE
Oct 23 2002 | Elizabeth Weitzman
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's DERRIDA is the sort of film one should probably see either a half dozen times or not at all. It's a complex, highly ambitious documentary that aptly reflects its subject, contemporary French philosopher Jacques Derrida. MORE
October 23 2002 | V.A. Musetto
'DERRIDA," a wise and witty look at acclaimed French philosopher Jacques Derrida, is a documentary for people who don't like documentaries. MORE
October 28 2002 | Bilge Ebiri
Bewitching documentary follows the seminal French philosopher around as he gives lectures, eats breakfast, and otherwise leads an ordinary life, all the while discoursing on existence and making sure to analyze the presence of a film crew in his house. Lighthearted and entertaining portrait is the last thing you'd expect from a film about the father of deconstructionism.
November 8 2002 | Joe Morgenstern
A true story about life and learning in Santa Monica. We were four for dinner last Saturday night, and the waitress was as attentive as she was actress-attractive -- lots of smiles and is-everything-all-rights. When the talk turned to movies, one of my friends asked if I'd heard of a documentary about Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher who founded Deconstructionism. Yes, I told him, I'll be reviewing it for Friday's paper. Suddenly our waitress gasped. "Derrida?" she asked, steadying an armful of plates. "There's a movie about Jacques Derrida?" I said there was, and asked how she happened to know him. "I'm a philosopher!" she exclaimed. "I'm working on my doctorate at UCLA."
I'm not a philosopher, but I enjoyed DERRIDA all the same. More than enjoyed it -- delighted in its playful but penetrating portrait of a deep thinker whose on-camera thoughts frequently turn to the dishonesty of his self-portrayal. Concerned about truth, as philosophers must be, Mr. Derrida takes great and endearing pains to emphasize that what the lens shows is not truly him, but a surrogate that he has created in response to the artificial surroundings. In this sense he forces the film, by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, to deconstruct its edgy subject. What's left is challenging and fascinating -- everything you didn't know you didn't know about Derrida's life and work.
November 8 2002 | Holly Willis
When French philosopher Jacques Derrida visited a USC classroom several years ago, his erudite arguments, charming accent and wavy white hair elicited a series of soft sighs. The brilliant thinker is surprisingly dashing, a fact captured in Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick's smart, effective portrait of one of our era's most complex philosophers. MORE
February 05 2003 | Wesley Morris
In the right academic circles, France's Jacques Derrida is the Mick Jagger of cultural philosophy. He opens his mouth, and the girls go nuts. Years ago, for his Yale lecture series, he even had groupies - adoring flocks of young women who hogged the front rows and were called the Derridettes. With Derrida, now 72, it's easy to understand the appeal to grad students. He has an iconoclastic idea of identity, and he conceived a complex critical philosophy known as deconstruction, which essentially negates an author's intention and opens his work to every and any interpretation. MORE
January 31 2003 | Peter Bradshaw
Dick and Ziering Kofman's documentary about the daily life of deconstructionist philosospher Jacques Derrida turns out to be very entertaining. The handsome subject himself is engaging and distinctly cinematic, looking decades younger than his 70-plus years, with a snow-white pompadour that we see being attended to at the hairdresser. MORE
March 2003 | Michael Witt
A documentary portrait of French philosopher Jacques Derrida. We see the dishevelled Derrida on his way out to the hairdressers, and later catch up with him charting the relationship between philosophy and biography in his near faultless English at an academic conference. Derrida is filmed addressing one of his seminars, and the film underlines the way Derrida's intellectual activity has resonated across disciplinary boundaries for four decades and produced more than 45 books. MORE
October 23 2002 | Mike D'Angelo
The professionally philosophical are different from you and me: They do more thinking. Jacques Derrida, the celebrated French-Algerian scholar who first challenged the primacy of the author's intention vis--vis a given text's meaning (sorry, that's about as concise as the idea gets), seems constitutionally unable to refrain from interrogating anything and everything within his purview. MORE
October 23 2002 | Darren D'Addario
When filmmakers Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick talk about French philosopher Jacques Derrida, they don't refer to him as many others do; elusive, inscrutable or enigmatic. The one word they both use to describe the father of deconstruction is charismatic. MORE
Jan 10 2003 | Edward Guthmann
He looks a bit like Ian Holm playing Bilbo Baggins in the first installment of "The Lord of the Rings." Frisky, playful, he has a full head of white hair and the sly, knowing smile of the intellectual who sees more than the rest of us but has the good manners to keep most of his judgments to himself. MORE
SAN FRANCISCO Jan 10 2003 | Jeffrey M. Anderson
One of the most interesting scenes in Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering's new documentary, "Derrida," which opens today at the Opera Plaza and at the Rafael Film Center, does not involve Jacques Derrida's ideas. MORE
Mar 14 2003 | Geoff Pevere
As practised by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the act of thinking becomes performance.
Partly this a is function of displacement. In a documentary about ideas - which Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's Derrida most certainly is - you have to take your drama where it comes, and in the context of a film about the founder of the movement called Deconstructionism, the most visually dramatic spectacle on view is the 73-year-old Derrida pulling thoughts from those vast intellectual depths. MORE
TORONTO Mar 13 2003 | Jason Anderson
Even people who instantly get a migraine when they pass by the Cultural Studies table at Pages will enjoy this portrait of Jacques Derrida, one of the world's most revered and controversial thinkers. MORE
MONTREAL Feb 21 2003 | Matthew Hays
The very act of reviewing a documentary about the famous French theorist Jacques Derrida in a mere few hundred words is inherently absurd. The man's philosophies are complex, intricate and defy easy summary. The man himself is complex, intricate and, as California-based doc filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman found, defies any easy summary either. MORE
MONTREAL Feb 20 2003 | Manon Dumais
Ancienne òtudiante de Jacques Derrida Ì Yale, Amy Ziering Kofman et son comparse Kirby Dick ont voulu immortaliser l'un des plus grands philosophes du 20e si¦cle en le filmant dans son intimitò, et lors de confòrences donnòes aux ¡tats-Unis et en Afrique du Sud. P¦re du dòconstructionnisme, courant de pensòe remettant en question la mòtaphysique occidentale, Jacques Derrida se pr®te Ì l'exercice avec simplicitò et humour. MORE
October 23 2002
Can't tell your Michael Foucault from your Ferdinand de Saussure? Don't worry. Even if you've never heard of French philosopher Jacques Derrida or read any of his texts on deconstruction theory, you can still enjoy this pleasantly unstuffy documentary about the rumpled heavy thinker. MORE
October 23 2002 | Ken Fox
If the very idea of a "revealing" documentary about poststructuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida strikes you as amusing, count yourself part of the target audience for Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's coolly stylish film. MORE
November 8 2002 | Jonathan Rosenbaum
If you think 85 minutes devoted to a "difficult" French philosopher is bound to be either abstruse or watered-down middlebrow stuff, think again: producer, codirector, narrator, and offscreen interlocutor Amy Ziering Kofman, a former student of Jacques Derrida at Yale, collaborating with codirector Kirby Dick, has worked out a very accessible and unpretentious way of conveying both the philosophy and likable personality of her subject. MORE
UC IRVINE November 8 2002 | Abel G. Pena
His wild hair invokes Albert Einstein, his calabash pipe Sherlock Holmes. But who, or what, is Derrida?
The new documentary DERRIDA will try to answer, or complicate, that very question when it opens for one week at the Landmark Nuart Theater in Los Angeles, Nov.8. MORE
Nov 2002 | Jason Guerrasio
"Sitting in the audience listening to him lecture, I thought there should be some kind of record of him, because he's one of the greatest thinkers probably of all time," explains filmmaker Amy Ziering Kofman about why she did a documentary on philosopher Jacques Derrida. MORE
RAVE! Nov 22 2002 | Jeff Favre
The Chain Camera Production facility in Los Angeles' Silver Lake neighborhood is roughly the size of a one-bedroom apartment.
There are a couple of offices where the living room and dining room should be, with an editing bay and another work area in the bedrooms.
But don't let size fool you. Kirby Dick, the driving force behind Chain Camera, has in the past five years directed and edited three documentaries that have received worldwide acclaim. MORE
BOXOFFICE Dec 2002 | Rachel Deahl
The first person to tell you that attempting to deconstruct a deconstructionist is like treading water in cement would be Jacques Derrida. Of course, the futility in the whole point, and this straightforward documentary about one of the most fascinating and influential thinkers of the 20th century attempts the impossible with satisfying, if not groundbreaking, results. MORE
November 8 2002 | Brent Simon
A documentary selection of the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, the dry but quite thought-provoking and rewarding Derrida tackles famed French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the founder of the Deconstructionist school of thought, which basically runs counter to the notion that a philosopher should not think of himself as an empirical being and counsels not to assume that what is in fact conditioned by history, institution and indeed all of society is necessarily natural. MORE
JEWISH JOURNAL Nov 8 2002 | Ellen Jaffe-Gill
What you notice in almost every shot is the hair: abundant, snow-white, carefully coiffed. It's an apt metaphor for Jacques Derrida's mind, which is prolific with ideas yet well-ordered and consistent in its probity and depth. In a new documentary, filmmakers Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick make arresting cinema from the mind, memories and hobits of a man whose life has been devoted to thought. MORE
Oct 23 2002 | Scott Tobias
Derrida is a documentary about French philosopher Jacques Derrida, foudner of deconstructionism. Or is it? Can truth be gleaned from a form so inherently artificial? What can a biography really claim to understand about a person? MORE
November 8 2002 | Cornel Bonca
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, Derrida's co-directors, have constructed an elegant, shrewd, tender documentary about the mystery of identity without succumbing to the tortuous pretzel logic so common among Derrida's numerous commentators (not to mention his acolytes). MORE
January 31 2003 | Roy Christopher
Jacques Derrida is the founding father of deconstruction. Focusing on our use of language, Derrida shows the multiple layers of meaning at work. By deconstructing previous works of scholars, Derrida shows that language is a constantly shifting thing. MORE
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January 15 2002 | Elvis Mitchell
In the opening of the documentary 'Derrida,' a blissful examination of the life of the philosopher Jacques Derrida by the directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, a blur of movement whooshes across the screen while a voice says, "There's a future which is predictable"
This kernel of reflection from DERRIDA summarizes the fare at the 20th annual Sundance Film Festival, which began here in 1983...
...As for "Derrida," it is a pleasure to watch as the subject shows himself to be self-deprecating, quick-witted and self-aware, even making fun of his own vanity while making statements that require pondering...MORE
January 9 2002 | Kenneth Turan
Pound for pound, as the old boxing writers used to say, the most reliable section at Sundance continues to be the documentary competition. Some of this year's most interesting include:
DERRIDA is easily the most intellectually challenging documentary in the competition. 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 verite" is only one of many trenchant comments made about everything from the myth of Echo and Narcissus to the sex lives of philosophers. MORE
January 22 2002 | Claudine Mulard
L'exercice du travail biographique, que le sujet lui-même déconstruit au fur et à mesure, fait de Derrida, réalisé par Amy Ziering Kofman et Kirby Dick, un documentaire captivant sur ce philosophe français qui ne manque pas d'humour.
The work of biography, which the subject of the film himself goes to great lengths to deconstruct, is one of the themes of DERRIDA, one of the most captivating and witty documentaries at Sundance this year. MORE
February 6 2002 | Dennis Lim One of the most skillful docs at Sundance doubled as philosophical experiment in portraiture. Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's Derrida avoids a deconstruction primer, instead positioning itself as a demonstration of the French thinker's theories: In a series of interviews, Derrida, ever aware of the camera, is encouraged to systematically dismantle the documentary apparatus. MORE
February 28 2002 | Peter Travers
Sundance's choices of award winners seems tame compared with Derrida, a potent and profound investigation into the philosophy of French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida...MORE
March/April 2002 | Rachel Rosen
There may be few subjects as intimidating to undertake as French deconstructivist 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.
March 4 - 10 2002 | Dennis Harvey
An affectionate but aptly complex view of one of our epoch's great philosophers, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's DERRIDA captures the French father of deconstructionism in both intellectual and intimate terms. Calling into question the nature of documentary portraiture itself as integral to grasping Jacques Derrida's densely layered world-view, playful feature will rep a provocative addition to fest, educational and pubcasting curricula.
Deconstruction reps a challenge to all conventional schools of thought, inasmuch as Derrida argues that 'truth' in any realm - literary, social justice, political, theological - should never be accepted without weighing the basic concepts and authorial interpretation it's funneled through. He's particularly attentive to the slippery way in which biography becomes fact: Can we truly "know" a person, or their achievements, sans knowledge of the human mind behind them? Yet Derrida, still vigorous in his early 70's, is amusingly cagey about revealing his own history and everyday life. Pic dogs him at lectures in U.S. and South Africa to both illustrate and catch quirky contradictions-in-practice to his theories. (At times he sits down to "deconstruct" interview footage of himself.) Well-turned package elucidates complicated points in clever visual/structural terms.
October 28 2002
As a boutique hotel popular with the jet set, the Tribeca Grand has seen its share of Page Six-style boldfaced names. Oct. 21, however, was probably the first time it played host to a post-modern French philosophical icon, Jacques Derrida.
The deconstructionist, more commonly seen in university lecture halls, was in town to promote the biographical doc "Derrida," a Zeitgeist release. Guests that night were culled from the worlds of art and science, and the pile of coats in the corner (despite a perfectly functioning coat-check) only added to the collegiate feel of the event.
As Derrida points out in the doc, the filming process cannot be considered natural. This only added to the cinematic challenge of co-helmers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman.
"The film continually problematizes his position as a subject," Kofman said. "He's never really static or stable."
"He starts deconstructing the process and we start deconstructing him, in a sense," Dick said.
"Shooting took years and years, hours and hours," said the subject after his second viewing. "It's a total artifact."
"There must be some truth here, but I am totally blind to it," he added thoughtfully.
Thinkers that night included David Byrne and Nobel Prize-winning DNA pioneer Dr. James Watson.
January 25 2002| Manohla Dargis
Other noteworthy Sundance documentaries, none of which have theatrical distribution, include Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's Derrida, which affords an intimate glimpse of its formidable subject...MORE
January 22 2002 | Kirk Honeycutt
Don't look for 'Derrida,' a film about famed French philosopher Jacques Derrida, to turn up on 'Biography.' For this is not a conventional biography. It's not even a conventional documentary. Instead of studying a man's life, Kirby Dick (Special Jury Prize winner at Sundance in 1997 for SICK: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN, SUPERMASOCHIST) and Amy Ziering Kofman, who studied with Derrida at Yale, explore the way he thinks and the issues that inspire his work...MORE
April 2002 | Glenn Kenny
One of the Sundance festival's most engaging and provocative documentaries.
January 15 2002 | Tim Merrill
Even if you have no idea what French philosopher Jacques Derrida's theories are about, allow your mind the chance to be teased and twisted by the unique new documentary DERRIDA. Co-directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, DERRIDA presents a respectful portrait of the 'Father of Deconstruction' while also giving the man ample space to play around with the documentary form, as you would expect someone in possession of a mind like his to do...MORE
Spring 2002 | Ray Pride
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's sweet and playful DERRIDA is a delightful documentary in which the French philosopher illuminates his way of thinking by challenging the filmmakers as the film is being made.
Spring 2001 | Peter Bowen
Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick (Sick; Chain Camera) are completing a documentary on Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher whose name, just a decade or so...MORE
July 20 2002
"What if someone came along who CHANGED not the way you THINK about everything, but EVERYTHING about the way you think?" So runs the publicity for Derrida, a new film by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, who studied under Derrida at Yale in the 1980s. Filmed over several years, Derrida promises to be "a complex personal and theoretical portrait" of the great man, mixing "rare vrit footage of Derrida in his private life with his reflections on deconstruction, violence, the structure of love, the history of philosophy, and the death of his mother". He playfully dodges a few questions, and addresses asides to the audience exposing the artificiality of the whole exercise. One New York Times critic found it "a pleasure to watch as the subject shows himself to be self-deprecating, quick-witted and self-aware, even making fun of his own vanity."
"Wouldn't it be interesting to be able to watch footage today of Plato or Nietzsche during their lifetime?" asks Kofman. "A hundred years from now, it will be just as remarkable and important to have a cinematic record of Derrida."
COUNTERPOISE MAGAZINE Steve Fesenmaier
During the last century, "thinking about thinking" has become a major influence on all forms of thinking - art, music, and most profoundly philosophy. This new documentary by filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman may be the single best film on this evolution, using world-renowned French philosopher Jacques Derrida as the subject.
"Subject" is the correct term for both this film, and this philosopher. His school of philosophy has been called "deconstruction." The basic idea is that one can never create a false sense of "objectivity" when one talks about the world, as people do in philosophy or art. We are always "the subject." This film uses Derrida's own method of deconstruction on his own life, recalling events from his childhood, recent life, daily life. It was exhilarating to see that the man was truly consistent - his unkempt look at some times, his own rejection of questions, showed a man who truly lives what he preaches.
DERRIDA was shown at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival along with a very nice short, "2+2" about John Nash of "A Beautiful Mind" fame. Bonita Rapham has created a small masterpiece, explaining Nash as well as one could. If you could see DERRIDA first, and then watch "2+2", you may understand Nash much better. You might indeed understand everyone, including yourself, much better because you could use deconstruction to see how no one is a simple "subject." That is the genius of this film, and the man himself. Derek Jarman did a wonderful job using Caravaggio's own techniques to create his film on the subject. It is very difficult to do this, but DERRIDA has done it without making the film too painful.
Something has to be said about the intoxicating music used in the film. The original score by Oscar winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Last Emperor, Gohatto, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence) is very well suited to the ideas of Derrida and the film itself. It can stand by itself as an exquisite work of art.
Several years ago there was a great documentary about R. Crumb that became a hit at the box office - for a documentary. This film deserves to do likewise. Unfortunately Derrida doesn't jump on people's backs, and luckily his brother does not die during the shooting of the film. I hope that everyone reading this review will tell people to see the film, and perhaps a miracle will take place - it will become another box office hit, showing that despite Prez W, Americans are still asking questions. Tell your local art house about the film, send them Zeitgeist's website, and eventually buy the DVD and video for your own collection. Derrida speaks a lot of English in the film so the sub-titles are minimal.
LISTENER NEW ZEALAND Tom Rodwell
Je Ne Sais Quoi
Is it possible to construct the world's most influential deconstructionist?
Philosophers have traditionally been at pains to distance their work. But Derrida, which was recently featured at the New Zealand International Film Festival, marks an important point along the borderlines around philosophy. It is the first feature length film about a living philosopher, the exquisitely cryptic subject being the Frenchman credited - or blamed - with poking at the foundations of much of Western thought, deconstructionist Jacques Derrida.
True to his intellectual position, Algerian-born Derrida, 72, spends a large portion of this intimate, spare, beautiful film evading questions about his life. It tracks him over a number of years to lectures on both sides of the Atlantic, a trip to South Africa's notorious Robben Island, to gatherings with friends - always remaining a polite, self-conscious saboteur.
Derrida, and those among his massive influence (his work has been the subject of over 400 books, and he has been cited more than 14,000 times in academic journals over the last 17 years), have gradually extrapolated deconstruction to take politics, economics, gender, the arts and beyond.
Two US radicals near that heart of non-sense - Hollywood, California - are Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick, co-directors of Derrida, Ziering Kofman is a former academic and pupil of Derrida, while Dick has a record of difficult self-reflexive films. He is best known for 1997's unsettling, Sick : the Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.
Although Derrida set out to cinematically address philosophy using filmic language, the directors had to allow the project to find its own form, on the edge of normal filmmaking, using multiple cameras at once, "found" footage, voiced Derrida texts, and a non-linear structure. At times Derrida is also not aware that the cameras are rolling.
Additionally, says Ziering Kofman, much of the film was improvised in the editing phase. Does this approach, then, present an Otherness from traditional documentary-making? "In a way, yes, because it is continually acknowledging that all it is, is doing this hopefully inadequate presentation," she says. "We're not presenting him in a homologous, assembled way, where you walk away thinking, "You've got him."
Still, can film ever convey something about a philosopher's thought? Perhaps as a documentary, it can inform the context in which philosophy lives. Perhaps, as art, it can reach similar territories of truth to philosophy. Why else would Derrida work so well?
"It captured something," Ziering Kofman says. "What it is, it might not be him. But there's something there that's a signature of his, that couldn't be reproduced anywhere else."
A film where little is revealed, but so much is said, it is fitting that Derrida ends by speaking of philosophy's own Other - the unknown, the secret, the non-thought.
How can another see into me, into my most secret self, without my being able to see in there myself, and without my being able to see him in me? And if my secret self, that which can be revealed only to the Other, the holy Other, to God if you wish, is a secret that I will never reflect on, that I will never know or experience or possess as my own, then what sense is there in saying that it is my secret? - Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death - 1992
PARDO NEWS SWITZERLAND August 2002
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman unveil their remarkable new documentary about the French philosopher and "father of deconstruction," Jacques Derrida, in the Cinema of the Present section
As a student at Yale in the 1980s, Amy Ziering Kofman studied under Jacques Derrida. "He was very striking and I was very intimidated," she remembers. "He was very, very professional, very pedagogical... He was extremely punctual. Lectures started on the minute and there wasn't much small talk beforehand. He'd go two hours straight in French - it was fairly exhausting."
Kofman had opportunities during seminars to ask him questions, but was too shy to take advantage. Many years later, when she finally approached him to see if he would agree to allow her to make a film about him, he claimed to remember her. "But I think he was just being polite. He was always very gracious... He just said write a proposal (for the documentary) and send it to him."
How do you make philosophy cinematic? "That was the great challenge of making this film," reflects Dick. "But we did have a couple of things in our favour. One was that Jacques was very striking both in person and - more importantly to us - on film. His personality provided a certain focus to the film. And I'm not necessarily certain that philosophy is inherently uncinematic. One of the things that we were banking on is that there's a sizable audience that's prepared to listen to philosophy in film and be thrilled by it in a sense." Dick and Kofman attempted to create "a constant interweave and shift" between seemingly banal day-to-day experiences of Derrida (drinking champagne, buttering his toast) and his philosophy. True to his reputation, the philosopher was busy deconstructing the movie even as it was being made and drawing attention to the "complete artificiality" of the interview situation. Radically ambivalent about celebrity and suspicious of the way the media fetishises personalities, he was also sometimes restrictive about what he allowed the documentary makers to film. "But he understands that he is public to a degree, and with that comes a certain responsibility," Kofman says. She had spent several years working on the project, which she began in 1994, before approaching Dick to see if he would co-direct. Both claim the collaboration was remarkably smooth. "It worked phenomenally well given what you hear about collaborations. Kirby and I respected each other and listened to each other. Even though there were strong disagreements along the way, I think it was a tremendous success."
SF BAY GUARDIAN April 17 2002
"Deconstruction is not a sitcom," Jacques "Jackie" Derrida tells a foolish, flinching TV interviewer who likens his practice to Jerry Seinfeld's. But this doc proves Derrida isn't a cold machine; he's a man with an ordinary sense of humor and a profound sense of melancholy. ...Derrida himself speaks and thinks with practical clarity.
SF BAY TIMES May 2002 | Erica Marcus
The festival's got a real thinking person's film DERRIDA an eclectic look at the philosopher known as the "father of deconstruction". Yet have no fear, this is an incredibly engaging, accessible, and simultaneously challenging look at some moments in the philosopher's life and some of his ideas. From the innovative and original, Kirby Dick who brought us "Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan" and his collaborator, Derrida's student, Amy Ziering Kofman, nothing less would be expected.
This is the story of the man behind the mind. Directors Kirby Dick (Sick) and Amy Ziering Kofman worm their way into the life of Jacques Derrida (or as his wife affectionately calls him "Jackie"), considered one the most brilliant philosophers in the world, if not the history of the field. The thing that separates this documentary from the pack is that it does not naturalize that which is not natural, which is due in part to Derrida's refusal to act like a talking head. As he says, "This is what you call cinema verite? Everything is false... I'm not really like this." Indeed, he seems to be uncomfortable with being a subject and half the fun is watching him squirm. The doc is accompanied by haunting music composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
AUSTIN CHRONICLE March 2002 | Marrit Ingman
This Sundance-screened effort amuses, not because it profiles the titular philosopher but because it doesn't. He keeps confounding the documentary process, deconstructing Kofman's interview scenario, refusing to provide "quick answers," and turning questions about love and marriage into answers about ontology and the impossibility of improvisation within the context of stereotypical discourse. There are moments of first-rate head candy, along with the expected quirky shots of Derrida looking for his keys and getting a haircut in slow motion.
January 18 2002 | Steve Rosen
...Jacques Derrida emerges as no less difficult to understand a contemporary deconstructionist thinker in the documentary "Derrida," but the French philosopher does turn out to be a witty, charming and extremely sincere person in the flesh. Watch for the film to introduce him to a wider audience than ever...MORE
January 20 2002 | Steve Rosen
...Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman's DERRIDA humanizes French "deconstructionist" philosopher Jacques Derrida and reveals him to be as witty as he is smart...MORE
THE DAILY HERALD UTAH January 16 2002 | Eric D. Snider
Jacques Derrida is a well-known French philosopher -- well-known as philosophers go, anyway, meaning your average guy on the street probably doesn't know anything about him. Which is fine, because the documentary DERRIDA summarizes his thoughts for you, while also biographing the man and even analyzing the very nature of documentary filmmaking.
Directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman could have put together a decent-enough film just focusing on the man's work, which includes the founding of modern deconstructionism. Derrida is a fascinating figure, with a large shock of white hair and a joking personality. His thoughts are deep, and when excerpts are quoted, viewers are liable to be momentarily lost. But the man himself is down-to-earth and relatively "normal," and the scenes showing him being himself are charming.
In the process of interviewing him, the filmmakers found him doing what he does best: deconstructing. In particular, he deconstructs the way documentaries are made, demonstrating the impossibility of presenting a completely accurate picture, because the very presence of a camera ruins any chance of that. He points out that normally when he's home all day, he doesn't get out of his pajamas. But today, with the film crew following him around, he made a point of getting dressed. Ergo, the film cannot be an accurate depiction of his everyday life. This is, in short a documentary that deconstructs documentaries -- an exciting idea and one executed nearly to perfection.
A few fascinating moments show Derrida watching footage of interviews already shot: Derrida on film, watching Derrida on film. His contradictions are captured as well. He refuses to get very personal with his answers, and later wonders why philosophers never get personal. When he elucidates on particular topics -- love and forgiveness being two of them -- it's philosophy everyone can appreciate and ponder, offering us a glimpse of the man and his thoughts.
Dick and Kofman could have been more concise in their storytelling; footage of Derrida visiting and speaking in South Africa is rather unnecessary, for example. But this biography, dissertation and analysis rises above that quibble, vividly achieving new ground in documentaries and introducing us to a brilliant man, besides.
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