Tuesday, January 18, 2011

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe

Documentaries are story telling, the stories just happen to be true. And so when it comes to many stories, they can be told many different ways with different conclusions, video and sound clips, and facts.

This point of view shapes the story and so when you watch William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe you will find that this film's narrators, Emily & Sarah Kunstler, two of the subjects daughters has a unique and engaging influence on the film.

William Kunstler is a liberal activists defense attorney who was famous for taking on many unique cases, beginning in the late 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights era.

His rise to prominence as a liberal lawyer is told in this film, but also told with Emily and Sarah trying to come up with a thesis for their father's life.

There is some significant legal victories and famous cases (his defence of the Chicago Seven, defense of the American Indian Movement in the Wounded Knee incident, and prisoners charged with killing a guard at Attica State Prison in New York).

As a defense attorney up for any challenge and press coverage, Kunstler who initially won over liberal fans also is shown in this documentary to loose any sort of a fan support system with his choice of defending accused rapist, terrorist, and and cop killers.

In addition to the collection of clips and audio that the Kunstler sisters have put together, what is interesting is also their personal struggle with who their father was, and it's understandable how his fifty years of activism creates a story of a man obsessed with the press and interested in controversy.

Emily and Sarah Kunstler also tell a story throughout the film of their father's view of prejudice and racism, in which he suggests that everyone is racists and that deeply impacts the court system, and ultimately a society that accepts legality for acceptable behavior.

The story of a defense attorney defending unpopular accused criminals is interesting in itself, but to see someone succeed at getting "not guilty" verdicts in cases the media has already decided is also interesting, regardless of your agreement with the methods or the tactics.

This film is one of the fifteen documentaries that could be nominated for an Oscar in this year's academy awards ceremony, and I am glad that this story has been told as it has in this film. It's delicate work to tell a story of this time and instead of over focus on balance or even making a powerful point, it's focus on telling an honest and personal story.


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