Review: Documentary about Judith Butler

The great folks at First Run Icarus Films sent me a DVD of the excellent Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind several months ago. I watched the film recently, and I'm finally getting around to writing a brief review of it.

High points: Butler walks through an art gallery discussing photographs by Cindy Sherman, who is one of my favorite photographers. She points out how Sherman's images critique gender categories and norms, and her comments are illuminative.

Butler also talks about violence and hate crimes, and while I was always convinced that the whole "Judith Butler doesn't pay enough attention to what's happening on the ground" argument was misguided and inaccurate, I think anyone who sees this film would recognize that Butler cares very much about real, material bodies and what happens to them.

One point of criticism, though. This has nothing to do with the content of the film, but rather the copyright policy (my emphasis):

We send review copies of First Run/Icarus Films releases with the understanding that if a review is published or posted (on-line), the reviewer may then retain the review copy sent for his or her own personal (but not classroom) use.

It's too bad that classroom use -- even, it seems, just showing a clip of it in class -- is prohibited. I had considered ripping a short clip as a sample so as to help sell the film, but I don't want to get a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney.

Bottom line, I would recommend that research libraries purchase the documentary. At $390 for the DVD, it might be a tad expensive for individuals, but if you're doing work on Butler, it might be worth it, especially if you have some grant funding.