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William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (2009)

tomatometer

79

Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 28
Fresh: 22 | Rotten: 6

It doesn't even feign impartiality, but this family-made documentary about the famously rabble-rousing attorney shines a light on the life and times of a divisive public figure.

77

Average Rating: 6.6/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 3

It doesn't even feign impartiality, but this family-made documentary about the famously rabble-rousing attorney shines a light on the life and times of a divisive public figure.

audience

75

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 257

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My Rating

Movie Info

During the second half of the 20th century, William Kunstler was one of the most admired attorneys in America -- and one of the most hated. Kunstler was a man who thrived on controversial cases; in the 1960s, he specialized in defending clients who ran afoul of the law on civil rights and free speech issues, and he spoke on behalf of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Lenny Bruce, members of the Black Panther Party, Native American activists, and prisoner's rights groups. Kunstler found himself in

Unrated,

Documentary

,

Sarah Kunstler

Apr 27, 2010

Arthouse Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (28) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (6) | DVD (1)

Like the recent animated documentary Chicago Ten, this is a timely reminder of a era when "change" was more than just a campaign slogan. But it's also a personal portrait, with shadings.

January 20, 2010 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe offers a deeply personal view of a larger-than-life figure. It's a view filtered through a prism of memory and emotion, but one well worth investigating.

December 10, 2009 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Leading the defense in the 1969-70 trial of the Chicago Seven, William Kunstler became a radical and a celebrity, and this vivid documentary captures how those two facets of his life worked together in morally urgent and contradictory ways.

December 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Terrific archival footage from a range of seminal civil rights events, as well as affecting narration written by Sarah Kunstler and spoken by Emily Kunstler (who also edited the film), round out this superior documentary.

November 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's point is clear. And for those looking for a straight answer, it's this: The bravest lawyer isn't the one who takes on the clients that allow him to feel good about himself. It's the one who takes on the clients that give us nightmares.

November 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kunstler's accomplishments, principles and courage are all here in Disturbing the Universe. But there is something else that adds an unexpected layer of emotional complexity.

November 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A testament, at least in part, to Kunstler's long and controversial career as a lawyer-activist, defending members of minorities and unpopular causes, and changing the law and the country in the process.

December 31, 2010 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Tries to examine and then reconcile Kunstler's legacy as a fighter for causes with his choosing to defend mobsters, terrorists, rapists and drug dealers.

December 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Still worth seeing despite the co-directors' inability to understand that a great lawyer will go out of his or her way to defend people being tried and convicted in places like the NY Post.

December 6, 2010 Full Review Source: rec.arts.movies.reviews
rec.arts.movies.reviews

One of the most pronounced recent trends in documentary is the use of the medium as a form of public therapy.

May 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

The radical lawyers' daughters - Emily and Sarah Kunstler - provide us with an intimate if not always flattering portrait of the man The New York Times once called 'the most hated and most loved lawyer in America.'

May 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A very moving tribute to an underappreciated hero who spent his life as a tireless defender of the defenseless.

April 24, 2010 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze
NewsBlaze

Civil rights? The American Indian Movement? The Chicago 10 trial? The Central Park rape trial? Attica prison riots? Kunstler was in the thick of all of them.

December 18, 2009 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

His daughters, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, made this timely documentary partly to celebrate their late father (he died in 1995) and partly to reiterate his fundamental beliefs.

November 21, 2009 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

...an in-depth but deeply emotional chronicle of their father's fascinating life.

November 20, 2009 Full Review Source: BitterLawyer.com

Fails to demystify the man bearing the film's title.

November 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington City Paper
Washington City Paper

A fond introduction to the activist lawyer by his daughters that may be more informative for their generation given that it covers little new ground.

November 14, 2009 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

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