Monday, May 4th, 2009...3:53 pm

Daughters of radical lawyer William Kunstler create compelling documentary of a singular advocate

Jump to Comments

Involvement with the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s led William Kunstler from a conventional law career and suburban lifestyle to a life at the center of radical political movements in the U.S.A.

Kunstler’s daughters, Sarah and Emily Kunstler, humanize their father and examine his contradictions in William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, a lively 90-minute documentary that will screen 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, May 6 at the Oak Street Cinema, 309 Oak St. S.E., in Stadium Village on the U of M East Bank campus. The showing is part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival’s “Best of the Fest” series.

From the press notes:

In the 1960s and 70s, Kunstler fought for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr., and represented activists protesting the Vietnam war. When the inmates took over Attica prison, or Native Americans 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 unpopular members of society: people accused of rape, terrorism, organized crime and cop killing.

I saw Kunstler in court, defending American Indian Movement (AIM) political prisoner Leonard Peltier, in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1984. Also that same year, I was in Rapid City when Kunstler argued on behalf of Dennis Banks, after the fugitive AIM leader turned himself in to authorities in South Dakota. He was one of the proverbial larger than life characters. — Mordecai Specktor

William Kunstler and American Indian Movement leader Russell Means, in the late 1970s. (Photo: Madeline Miller)

William Kunstler and American Indian Movement leader Russell Means, in the late 1970s. (Photo: Madeline Miller)

Leave a Reply