Examined Life at Pacific Cinematheque


Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 — 6:50am PST
Comments 3

Thanks to the people at FilmsWeLike I was able to screen Examined Life, a documentary film by Astra Taylor that walks and talks with philosophers in various cities. Discussions range from meaning in life to Truth (with a capital “T”), romanticism, ecology, gender, capabilities, and ideology.

“Examined Life pulls philosophy out of academic journals and classrooms, and puts it back on the streets.” [NFB]

The wide cast of philosophers range from Michael Hardt talking about ‘revolution’ while rowing a boat in Central Park, to Cornel West quoting Donne and Yeats in the back of a moving car, while Peter Singer discusses ethics on 5th Avenue in New York.


Photo: NFB

Slavoj Zizek walks through a waste treatment plant in New York while explaining ecology as ideology, and Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses what it is to be truly cosmopolitan. We hear from Avital Ronell, Martha Nussbaum, and in San Francisco – Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor as well.

In the Director’s Q&A, Taylor notes: “Many would feel that the world is facing a multitude of unprecedented problems, from global arming to growing economic inequality. In a way, this is part of why I wanted to make Examined Life right now — I feel that the myriad of problems facing us demand more thinking than ever, not less.

That said, most people wouldn’t assume philosophy would have anything useful to say on these issues. Often when you mention “philosophy” people’s eyes kind of glaze over. The world conjures images of stodgy old white men pontificating on abstract matters completely irrelevant to those of us who in the “real world”. Or maybe folks assume that philosophy doesn’t relate to their lives, or that people who are interest in the subject or unforgivably ponderous or pretentious.”


Photo: NFB

The film is certainly thought-provoking and with so many faces and angles presented in each discussion, your eyes certainly won’t glaze over — especially when the passionate Cornel West talks about music, “I’m a blues man… …the blues is personal catastrophe lyrically expressed.”

Examined Life has been playing since Friday at Pacific Cinematheque downtown and tonight is the last showing before it heads to Victoria for screenings beginning April 1st at Cinecenta. Tickets are $9.50 (cash only) and the show starts at 7:30pm. You can also follow Pacific Cinematheque on Twitter for other show updates.

Current contests on Miss604.com

3 comments

  1. Those with cable can also catch this documentary on the Knowledge Network on April 7th and 8th. Nice alternative for those who have better ideas for $20!

  2. Miss604 says:

    Sweet, thanks for the heads up Karen! I do like seeing some films on the big screen though… like all the old hockey ones that were at the Vancity Theatre and they’ll also be showing some Monty Python there next month as well.

  3. Campbell Macdonald says:

    Loved the film. Very insightful and surprisingly broad spectrum of topics and “philisophical applications”: accessability, trash, poverty, shoes, and music. What was surprising is the lack of real meat on the question of meaning and life. I guess that’s a tough one.

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