Photobiographies: The ‘Derrida’ documentaries as film-philosophy
Author(s): Sinnerbrink, Robert
Kirby Dick and Amy Kofman’s philosophical documentary DERRIDA (2002) generated ambivalent responses among critics. David Roden criticised the film’s failure to engage in ‘philosophical discussion and analysis’, hence he dismissed the film for being ‘insufficiently philosophical’. By contrast Safaa Fathy’s D'AILLEURS, DERRIDA (DERRIDA'S ELSEWHERE, 1999) was praised for capturing its subject on screen while finding cinematic ways of presenting essential elements of Derrida’s thinking. These two Derrida documentaries raise an important question: how does a philosophical documentary (one taking a living philosopher as its subject) achieve a cinematic articulation of his or her thought? Rather than judging them according to traditional critical discourses I will consider how these documentaries ‘perform’ philosophy through film, examining their contrasting attempts to present ‘the life of the philosopher’ while ‘screening’ philosophical (indeed deconstructive) thinking by way of cinematic presentation. The alleged ‘failure’ of DERRIDA as philosophy along with D’AILLEURS, DERRIDA’s apparent success offer us a way of thinking through the relationship between film and philosophy as a cinematic performance of thought. I suggest that while both documentaries can be described as ‘performative’ Dick and Kofman’s DERRIDA enacts a deconstructive ‘performativity’ that is closer in spirit to Derrida’s deconstructive mode of thought.
Sinnerbrink, Robert: Photobiographies: The ‘Derrida’ documentaries as film-philosophy. In: NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies, Jg. 5 (2016), Nr. 1, S. 59–76. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25969/mediarep/3347.
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