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"One of the year's 10 best films"
--Film Comment magazine


73 minutes

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Where parallel worlds meet. . .

There exists a world where death creates life, where suicides without sadness occur billions of times every hour, where every individual does only what is required by its society. It is a world of highly sophisticated communication and stunning choreography, of vast depth and endless mystery. It is utterly alien, but it is also, in every moment, creating us all.

Death by Design is a guided tour into the invisible world of cells, told through a collage of metaphors. State-of-the-art micro-cinematography is playfully intercut with parallel images from life at the human scale: a hundred lighted violins, imploding buildings, pieces of film on the cutting room floor. . .

Starring Rita Levi-Montalcini (Nobel Prize winner), Robert Horvitz (Nobel Prize winner), Martin Raff, Polly Matzinger, Pierre Golstein, Klaus-Michael Debatin and a cast of billions.


Watch the film here

Watch an expert of the film here

Winner of:

  • The Prix Euopa in Berlin for Best Non-Fiction Film of the Year

  • The Earthwatch Environmental Film Award

  • Audience Award, Marseille International Documentary Film Festival, France

  • Jury Prize, Visions du Réel International Documentary Films, Nyon, Switzerland

  • Golden Gate Award, 1996 San Francisco International Film Festival

  • Jury Prize, Thomas Edison Film Festival, New Jersey, 1996

  • Gold Apple, National Educational Media Network Awards, California, 1996

  • Grand Jury Prize, Festival du Film de Chercheur, France, 1996

  • Bell-Northern Prize for Scientific Excellence, and Pratt & Whitney Prize for Excellence in Science Popularization, Québec Science Film Festival


Film Credits

Writted, Edited and Directed by Peter Friedman and Jean-François Brunet
Produced by Peter Friedman and Emmanuel Laurent
Camera Van Carlson , Animated Sequence Emily Hubley
Sound Henri Makoff and Richard Brause

A production of Strange Attractions, Inc.

Commissioned by Christoph Jörg for ZDF-ARTE. A presentation of ITVS/CPB with the participation of the BBC, RTBF, CNC, CNRS, INSERM, EURIMAGES, PROCIREP,AND DURAN.
©  Strange Attractions, Inc. 1995

Schools and libraries can purchase public performance licenses by contacting @Docuseek

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Press Reviews

A perfect introduction to cell biology. . .It stimulates both curiosity and the imagination; illuminates the world of cells with great charm and unpretentious artistry, and explains its biological wonders with poetic clarity.


Read the complete review here.

To describe "Death by Design" as an elaborately illustrated lecture on the body's cells is to do small justice to this intelligent and imaginative work.. . . What lingers are the surprising, revealing visual metaphors for an astoundingly orchestrated process featuring what the film rightly boasts is "a cast of billions."

--New York Times

Read the complete review here.

"Imaginative, accessible and consistently entertaining, Death by Design. . . belongs to that category of films that can alter the way viewers look at the world around them. "


"Sounds and images of rigorous beauty, captivating interviews, audacious and masterful editing. . .a superb film. "

--Le Monde (France)

Without lab coats or jargon, an American film-maker and a French scientist renew the science film. Eureka!

--Telerama (France)

How to buy

Schools and libraries can purchase public performance licenses by contacting @Docuseek

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