Attention is the rarest and purist form of generosity,” said Simone Weil, one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Weil, who was raised by a secular Parisian Jewish family and lived during the rise of Fascism in Europe, paid close attention to the hardships of the poor and disempowered. Filmmaker Julia Haslett turns her lens on this French philosopher, whose 16 books were published only after her death in 1943. Through interviews with Weil’s editors, family and intellectual descendents, Haslett eloquently traces the trajectory of Weil’s intellectual identity as it shifted over time; Weil was a trade unionist, a Marxist, an anti-Stalinist, a pacifist, a fighter in the Spanish Civil War and a Christian-influenced mystic.
“We read writers of such scathing originality for their personal authority, for the example of their seriousness, for their manifest willingness to sacrifice themselves for their truths.” wrote Susan Sontag of Weil. Haslett’s intimate documentary boldly explores her own artistic encounter with Simone Weil. When Haslett takes the process of biography to an extreme—hiring an actor to play Weil so she can better understand this intellectual pioneer—she bring us into the heart of her creative process in an act of aesthetic bravery and attentiveness worthy of Weil herself