Archives / 2008 Sundance Film Festival

Derek

Director: Isaac Julien

Institute History

Description

Derek is a glorious, yet fitting, remembrance of one of independent film’s greatest treasures, Derek Jarman. It is lovingly crafted by filmmaker and friend Isaac Julian, who assembles a moving collage of rare home movies, film clips, and interviews, and a cinematic love letter from actress Tilda Swinton. Her input serves as the poetic overlay telling the whole truth about the life Jarman led, and the cultural abyss left by his absence.

From Sebastiane (1976) to Blue (1992), Jarman was the single most crucial figure in British independent cinema through the seventies, eighties, and nineties. He lived as a gay man surfing the joys of gay liberation and the sorrows of AIDS. He lived as a painter and participant observer, noting with pen or camera all that passed before him.

In Derek, Julian finds the perfect aesthetic tone, letting you see into the magic of a great creative mind, and leaving you longing for a world with him still in it. Historians can tell us what happened, but it takes another artist to show us what it felt like to be there. When Swinton recites “Dear Derek” at the opening of the film, it can be interpreted as both salutation and adjective because Jarman was dear to so many as both inspiration and friend. The creation of Derek will thankfully go counter to Jarman’s offhanded last wish and not let him “evaporate.”

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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