Vanity Fair magazine supposedly once called William Kunstler “the most hated lawyer in America,” and even the New York lawyer’s daughters say they didn’t always understand the man.
Sarah and Emily Kunstler have made a film about their father called “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” which will be screened starting tomorrow at the Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco, with appearances by the filmmakers later this weekend.
Sarah Kunstler, a criminal defense lawyer practicing in New York, said sometimes judges she meets have stories to tell her about her father. “He was a really charismatic person,” she said from her hotel in Los Angeles, where the film is also opening tomorrow.
The kind of work that gets you that kind of label, after the jump ...
During his career, Kunstler fought for civil rights in Mississippi, defended the “Chicago Seven” Vietnam War protesters and represented members of the American Indian Movement after Wounded Knee. “But the girls weren’t around for their father’s glory days,” the film’s press packet notes. “The father they knew publicly kissed the cheek of a Mafia client and condoned assassinations he viewed as political. He represented an Islamic fundamentalist charged with murdering a rabbi, a terrorist accused of bombing the World Trade Center, and a teenager charged with participating in a near-fatal gang rape.”
Of the film, Sarah Kunstler said, “It’s the story of a lawyer who was always thinking outside the box. It’s an opportunity for lawyers to see someone who’s looked at the courtroom as a theater.” In telling this personal story, Emily Kunstler added, the sisters were looking for a way to draw strength from history. Their production company, Off Center Media, makes documentaries on the criminal justice system.
The filmmaker sisters are answering questions about the film in person at Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. shows at Opera Plaza Cinema.
— Kate Moser