October 18, 2010
Radical civil rights lawyer William Kunstler’s life is told by his filmmaker daughters Emily and Sarah, in this documentary titled William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe. In the 1960’s and 70s, William Kunstler fought for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. and represented the famed “Chicago 8” activists who protested the Vietnam war. When the inmates took over Attica prison, or when the American Indian Movement stood up to the federal government at Wounded Knee, they asked Kunstler to be their lawyer. To his daughters, it seemed that he was at the centre of everything important that had ever happened. But when they were growing up, Kunstler represented some of the most reviled members of society, including rapists and assassins.
Watching this documentary about such an interesting man is much better than reading a book because it immerses the audience into the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, with the use of stock footage, photographs no one has ever seen, and interviews with the people directly connected to William Kunstler. A good thing about this flick is that it gives a lot of background story about the events that he got involved in unlike a lot of other films where they just assume that the audience know what they are talking about.
A large majority of the film is made up of in depth and intimate archival footage and court room illustrations, and one of the best methods to keep it dated and fresh is by mixing it into montages and using rock music to give it a rebellious vibe. It was a great experience watching every moment and event that shaped America to be what it is today.
The documentary not only delves into the important court cases and clients William Kunstler defended, but also the kind of father he was, his life growing up and how he became the man he was. They also portray his enthusiasm and inspirations in great detail leading us to the ideologies behind his actions.
The whole film was narrated and interviews were conducted by William Kunstler’s daughters, who also gave their personal stories of what it was like growing up with a father who defended the the guilty rather than the good. There are 2 great animation sequences in the film that does a lot for depicting what William Kunstler wanted to do and what he wanted people to do in the face of injustice.
I found this film very informative and thought provoking and visually stimulating, but it would’ve been better if the makers were to put music from the era to further transport the audience to the time of all these events, however due to budget constraints the makers were unable to.
Fat Kids Rating: 7 out of 10
Words by Kevin Monster