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At the Three Rivers Film Festival

Friday, November 15, 2002

By Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Jacques Derrida is the only philosopher-king around these days, the makers of this eponymous bio documentary would tell us. With his thatch of snowy hair and a disarming, if condescending smile, the 72-year-old Frenchman plays the role of intellectual as celebrity to the hilt.


The Three Rivers Film Festival runs through Nov. 24, screening more than 40 films at the Harris Theater (809 Liberty Ave., Downtown), the Melwood Screening Room (477 Melwood Ave., Oakland) and the Regent Square Theater (1035 S. Braddock Ave., Edgewood).

Tickets are $6 each; $4 for the Unseen Cinema, Film Kitchen and Short Program. A Crazy Eight festival pass is $35. For more information, call 412-682-4111 or go to www.pghfilmmakers.org.

Here a review of one of this weekend's films.

Weekend Schedule
Three Rivers Film Festival


(Please don't ask who Derrida is. If you don't know, save your money for "Harry Potter II.")

Co-directors Kirby Dick ("Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan") and Amy Ziering Kofman, accompany the father of Deconstructionism from his modest Paris home to campuses at UC Berkeley, New York University and South Africa as he does whatever philosopher-kings do.

Mostly he talks with great conviction about his holy trinity -- the who, the what and the Other -- as students try to look suitably impressed. Some even pretend to understand him.

Perhaps the best moments in the film, shot over more than a year apparently, are Derrida's encounter with the aftermath of apartheid, both as a tourist at the infamous Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed for many years to a question from a young college student on the philosophy of forgiveness.

Derrida also spars with the filmmakers in question-and-answer sessions which he playfully concedes are so artificial as to be meaningless.

One dumb question -- "How do you feel about love" -- elicits a look of withering scorn that speaks volumes about the increasing idiocy of media interviewers.

"Derrida" is a film for those who understand his theories -- maybe there are a half dozen or so.

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