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William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (2010)

Emily Kunstler , Sarah Kunstler  |  NR |  DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Arthouse Films
  • DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002ZTQV98
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,825 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews


The most hated and most loved lawyer in America. --The New York Times

A magnificent profile of an irrepressible personality --Indiewire

Product Description

In WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE, filmmakers Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler explore the life of their father, the late radical civil rights lawyer. In the 1960s 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 center 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. This powerful film not only recounts the historic causes that Kunstler fought for; it also reveals a man that even his own daughters did not always understand, a man who risked public outrage and the safety of his family so that justice could serve all.

*Official Selection Sundance Film Festival
*Official Selection Full Frame Film Festival
*Official Selection Woodstock Film Festival

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars rare for a lawyer May 12, 2010
An excellent movie- my only question- did Kunstler have a previous marriage with children? What happened there? Otherwise, having met Bill myself and agreeing with all of his causes, with only a couple of exceptions- (1st trade center bombing for example), I felt saddened by the fact that here a unique and rare lawyer is portrayed. Think of this- what is the golden law? it is- "them with the gold writes the laws!" This movie portays Kunstler in the best/most known trials of radicals thru the 60's and 70's. It shows what his family had to endure. We can be thankful that K existed as long as he did, bercause in many other countries he would have been killed right away. The U.S. stifles progressive lawyers in its other way- offering up such inducements as money and giving progressive lawyers no recognition or prominence or jailing them. In a country with a right of center Supreme Court- one is happy to see Bill winnning before the highest court in the land. The film ends with a speech by K in which he exposes a system that cloaks itslef in the so called "respectability" of the law. But was Jesus killed legally?, he asks-Yes, is his answer? . He posits the possibility that through history more innocent individuals have been killed by courts than by criminals.
Hopefully more such films will be made. We need them in a country where this viewpoint, this perspective is kept very, very quiet by the powers that be.
Daughters, Sarah and Emily have given us a wonderful memorial to a wonderful man. Should be shown in all law schools.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating, engaging, and balanced portrait of the civil rights attorney William Kunstler. The film documents Mr. Kunstler's life and career from his military service during WWII to his early years practicing law in Westchester County to his transformation into a leading civil rights figure and his eventual career as a criminal defense attorney in NYC. Made by his two daughters, the film also tells the story of both the challenges and the inspiration that resulted from growing up with Mr. Kunstler as a father. The filmmakers are not uncritical of their father and don't hesitate to question the motives behind some of Mr. Kunstler's decisions.

The film includes interviews with an impressive cast of individuals who knew Mr. Kunstler or were involved with the cases he argued. These include well known figures Jimmy Breslin, Bobby Seale, and Julian Bond, among others, and lesser known figures including a juror from the Chicago Conspiracy trial and an Attica prison guard. The filmmakers also make excellent use of archival footage and photographs, both from mainstream media and from Mr. Kunstler's personal life.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in civil rights history, activism, and American justice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Daughters don't really "get" him? Or do they? May 26, 2010
By Cuvtixo
This is a great documentary, especially for people already interested in Kunstler and/or the law and/or recent American history. As for his last few cases, Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, the directors and narrators, seem to have trouble understanding why he represented some of the people he did. People like associates of the Gambino crime family and El-Sayyid Nosair, the assassin of the late Jewish leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. It may have something to do with love of law, or love of truth or some other high ideals. But I would guess that he also felt that the whole legal system was faulty and corrupt, and that these high profile cases could reveal the system's problems and deficiencies. In a way, maybe he continued the defiant "legal theater" of the Chicago Seven trial, only in a less shocking, more conventional manner. I'm just guessing, but this documentary seems to be missing something about the man and his ultimate motivations, and it's a bit frustrating. Maybe I'm asking too much to expect the daughters to neatly wrap up the story of their father's innermost thoughts, but I would have preferred that they got closer to the truth than is revealed in the documentary. I'm certainly still thinking about it, and that seems to be one of the aims of this film. Not the last word on Kunstler, though.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars where we have been and where we are going February 3, 2010
Distrubing the Universe documents the life of William Kunstler . Written and directed by the daughters Kunstler, it is both personal and asks us to not only remember and preserve the past but to also use this example to think about what to do now. It is entertaining in the best sense and deeply moving.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
As this film is put together by two of William Kunstler's daughters, it's a very personal way to view some of the landmark civil rights cases in the US, as they combine their family's history with the history of this country. The film is indeed the perfect combination of a family's story, civil rights-era history, and an examination of the distinction between legal and just. It also reminds us that people's actions aren't always black or white, and that sometimes you need to probe beneath the surface to discover the motivations behind certain behavior. I was born after most of Kunstler's cases took place and don't remember learning much about any of them in school, so for me, the film was a fascinating and enlightening portrayal of the stories that are often glossed over in mainstream history textbooks, which are often the stories that are most worth telling. It's also a great way for non-history buffs to absorb some knowledge of US history and our legal system, as the personal narratives interwoven throughout the court cases will hold the attention of those drawn more to human interest stories than historical or legal documentaries. I saw the film in theaters twice, and both times the crowds have left the theater chattering about the film and really enthused about the questions that it raised.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone looking to examine US history through a very personal and unique lens.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief insight
Great documentary of the civil rights icon. Kunstler was charismatic and unflinching. Fascinating person to watch through the civil rights movement and beyond.
Published 3 months ago by Justin Calta
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good
Loved the book. The book helped me in business and motivated me to fight for good causes and never give up.
Published 6 months ago by Samaritan's House
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, Evocative, Joyful, Sad, Too Meaningful - Power To The...
This is a must-see for anyone concerned with the rights of Americans. I don't care what stripe you are, except if your stripe is fascism. Read more
Published 13 months ago by David Abels
5.0 out of 5 stars KUNSTLER IS DEAD ON.....
Published 16 months ago by aloysuis10
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truely Great Man
Listen carefully to his speech at the end to see the depth of what makes him such a great Man and Lawyer.
Published on January 8, 2012 by moto2kx2
2.0 out of 5 stars A Selfish Opportunist not a leader
I was mesmerized by Kunsler until he came to my university campus during the height of student protests in 1970. Read more
Published on November 19, 2011 by no name
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
This is a moving and amazing view of Mr. Kunstler. Every American should see this. It's sad that we have nobody to replace him .
Published on September 29, 2011 by Barbara A. Greles
4.0 out of 5 stars The right to a trial
Caught this documentary on William Kunstler on PBS today.
Made by his daughter's it is a fascinating account of lawyer that shaped the times I was raised within.... Read more
Published on April 16, 2011 by a gentle sound
4.0 out of 5 stars as much about his daughters' evolving views as the man himself
Don't let the fact that the documentary "William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe" was produced, written and directed by his two daughters, Emily and Sarah, lead you to assume... Read more
Published on February 7, 2011 by Roland E. Zwick
5.0 out of 5 stars William Kunstler was right and you were wrong
Yes, William Kunstler was right and you were wrong, even if you are one of his two daughters who made the engrossing documentary about the late, great attorney, WILLIAM KUNSTLER:... Read more
Published on July 9, 2010 by J. L LaRegina
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