watch Derek trailer


UK, 2008, 76 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Activism, AIDS / HIV, Biography / History, Death / Dying, Documentary, Gay, Homophobia
Program: Showcases
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Isaac Julien

It’s only fitting that Isaac Julien and Tilda Swinton would collaborate on a documentary about pioneering queer filmmaker Derek Jarman — Swinton as his great friend and frequent leading lady and Julien as a gay Brit who, like Jarman, started out in the world of fine arts and later made films. Both contributors eschew the predictable route of the biographical documentary, creating an iconoclastic tribute to this boundary-breaking director.
Rather than simply discuss what it was like to work with him, Swinton (who also produced Derek) reads a letter in voiceover, highlighting his talents and mourning the state of today’s filmmaking. Julien uses her remarks as punctuation to a linear chronology of Jarman’s life narrated by the man himself, primarily from a lengthy 1990 interview and clips from his films. Jarman recalls pivotal cinematic experiences — including The Wizard of Oz, La Dolce Vita and Scorpio Rising —and reminisces about his school days, his parents’ marriage, first sexual experiences and the various people he met at the Slade art school (including David Hockney).
Brief discussions of his own work ensue, accentuated by clips from Sebastiane, The Tempest, Caravaggio and others, culminating with his last film, Blue, made as he was dying of AIDS. The result is a loving, concise documentary that stands not only as an edifying elegy and tribute to Jarman and his work, but also a cri de coeur for a time when queer cinema insisted on being defiantly outside of the mainstream. — ROD ARMSTRONG

co-presented by

Visual Aid


Joie de Vivre Hospitality

Official Film Website

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