DVD Review: WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
April 24th, 2010

William Kunstler Disturbing the Universe

Rating: 4/5

Bonus Features Rating: 4/5

Directors: Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler
Studio: Arthouse Films

The '60s and '70s are notorious for the radical change that was brought to America and her citizens during this time. It's a period known for a revolution not only in music, but in civil rights for African-Americans and women, JFK, hippies, and so much more that countless amounts of books, movies and so on have documented all the turning points of this decade far better than I could ever describe. People of my generation fondly look at this period and wish it was something we could have been a part of; to witness these massive amounts of history that all took place in America in such a short span of time is truly incredible, and those who were a part of it can consider themselves very fortunate.

In WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE, directors Emily and Sarah Kunstler in their third documentary take a look back at this era to a lawyer who helped inspire these radical changes not only during this time period, but later in the '90s as well. It's a fascinating story about a fearless individual who helped shape our legal and civil rights system, but with an interesting twist: it's about their father.

William Kunstler is a man who is famous (or as the documentary put it "infamous for some") for representing the people who did not want to be represented in a time of social turmoil; working with people who were deemed too radical or dangerous to America's institution. Kunstler took on cases of "The Chicago Seven," victims of the Wounded Knee incident, those involved in the Attica Prison riot and much more (if you're interested in learning more about him, then I encourage you to check out his page on Wikipedia). These cases brought fame and notoriety to Kunstler (whether positive or negative) because of their change, but with that fame came threats to him and his family, and being frowned upon by general society.

WILLIAM KUNSTLER provides an engrossing look at this radical individual from the people who may know him best, his two daughters, Emily and Sarah. The achievement of this truly interesting film is that both directors Kunstler are able to provide a neutral and fair look at their father, and it does not become something of hero worship or a idolatry for him. They clearly state in the documentary the issues they had with the cases he took on and how it affected them personally, yet (and regardless of your opinion on the cases as well), they can't deny that his work changed lives and also our legal system.

As well as giving an honest look at their dad, directors Kunstler also give a thorough background on the subjects of the cases. I had gone into this documentary not knowing much, if anything, about the Attica Prison riots or incident at Wounded Knee, but directors Kunstler are able to provide a plentiful amount of background knowledge for the time allotted. These are obviously events that have been chronicled in popular culture, but the directors present them well through narration and interviews with those who were either victims of the cases or involved as part of their legal team. And by weaving in their own personal home footage with that of news and courtroom pictures, it provides the full spectrum of how these cases affect everyone who is involved.

WILLIAM KUNSTLER is an inspiring and thought-provoking film that lovers of history and political science should check out. The film questions the acts that our government had performed on its own people, and presents images that look as if they took place in some foreign war, when they were really on our home turf. And although these acts at times disheartened him, they ultimately inspired Kunstler and colleagues to "dare" to stand up for those who were victim of injustice from the American government, no matter who it was who needed their help. It's these acts from Kunstler that inspire you to care for your fellow man, and are really what America should be about.

Bonus Features Review: In the DVD of this film, there are two bonus features that come along with it. The first feature is 85 minutes of audio footage from some of Kunstler's cases or interviews. My personal favorite audio bonus was an interview conducted over the "Chicago Seven" where Kunstler discusses what he learned about people from the case.
The second feature of this DVD is 91 minutes of bonus footage where Kunstler can be seen talking about the Attica Prison riot and his set at the Caroline Comedy club. These bonus videos are even more revealing of Kunstler, as there is no background narration or images to support, it is just Kunstler being direct and honest. The video footage of his speech at a commencement to the SUNY Architectural School was my favorite feature because he gives a speech about Michaelangelo's David that is completely inspiring and genuine. This speech is evidence that Kunstler was a man who practiced what he preached.

Although these are the only bonus features to be found on the DVD, they give an even more personal look into Kunstler's thoughts and feelings towards these cases, and it gives the entire set a nice, full circle.

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