Derrida's Elsewhere

Directed by Safaa Fathy

68 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2001
Copyright: 2000

An exploration of the man and his ideas, DERRIDA'S ELSEWHERE investigates the parallels between the personal life and the life work of arguably the most important philosopher of the 20th Century, Jacques Derrida. We follow Derrida around his home, office, in the classroom and on his travels as he speaks of the suffering, the challenges and the questions that have conditioned his thought since his childhood in Algeria.

The film is woven around readings from Derrida's book Circumfession, evoking seemingly disparate themes including hospitality, religion, sexuality and the place of the subject in philosophy. Derrida shows us the common thread he perceives running though them: responsibility. Incorporating related imagery, DERRIDA'S ELSEWHERE uses footage of the places Derrida knew in his childhood and adolescence in Algeria, photos of his life there, super-8 footage from the 1960's and 70's, and images from Spain.

The transitory nature of Place is a concept that has occupied Derrida from youth. He evokes the experience of de-colonization to illustrate his ideas. At the synagogue where his father would bring him as a child, it is clear from the design that it was first an Islamic mosque. It is a mosque again, reconfigured in the wake of de-colonialism. Colonialism and Post-Colonialism figure heavily in Derrida's work. His concept of displacement, of feeling like an immigrant without papers, has its roots in his childhood in Algeria. Influential too are Derrida's Spanish Jewish roots. Through his obsession with the story of Marrand, a 14th Century Jew who practiced his religion in secret, we learn of Derrida's sympathy for secrecy, for the unrevealed. After all, according to Derrida, the absence of Secrecy is a totalitarian society.

DERRIDA'S ELSEWHERE takes us into his worlds - that of his work in Paris and that of his familial and spiritual roots in Algeria and the Spain of Lorca and El Greco. We begin to see how places allow words to appear, producing images that let us catch a glimpse of what's beyond.

"Profoundly autobiographical… a film that preserves on one level the coherence and cogency of Derrida's work, highlighting it against a vivid series of autobiographical backdrops." —Theory & Event

"Highly Recommended! A unique and intensely personal examination." —Educational Media Reviews Online

"Many of the leading scholars and translators of Derrida's work were collaborators on the film, and it shows. With translations that are excellent and complete, this film would be well used in a classroom to introduce the French philosopher to students." —French Review

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Select Accolades

  • 2001 Vancouver Film Festival
  • 2001 Arab Film Festival (San Francisco)


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