Preserve Your Family History
With candor and affection, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe uses the life of one man to illuminate issues of racism, freedom of speech and action, prisoners' rights, antiwar activism, Native American sovereignty, government repression and the courage of those who dissent, making relevant today the matters that were important to William Kunstler. In a portrait that humanizes history, the filmmakers reveal the complexity of both people and events. Learn more about the issues and events that are raised in the film and ways to preserve your own unique history.
- Convene a "learning from history" task force to investigate current initiatives or controversies in your community regarding civil rights, abuse of government power, freedom of speech and/or prison reform. As you plan how you will support or respond to what you discover, consider what you learned from the film about how to achieve just resolution of the issues your community faces.
- Set up a task force to monitor local courts for patterns of racism. where appropriate, facilitate anti-bias training for court officers and staff. If specific cases warrant it, find ways to advocate for defendants who are not receiving fair treatment.
- Using the film as a model, research and record a family history, including your own reflections about the people and events you uncover. Find a way to preserve your family history for future generations (video, photos with captions, family website, podcast, etc.). Take a look at the StoryCorps project for tips, great questions and other ideas.
- Conduct oral histories with people who participated in the civil rights movement, those who protested the Vietnam war or current American wars and people who stood up (or are currently standing up) against inequality or injustice in their communities. These stories of individuals in your community may not be well known, but they are a part of the history of fighting injustice and oppression in the United States. Compare and contrast interview subjects' memories with the depictions in the film. work with your local library, historical society or university to preserve and share these oral histories.
- Study competing definitions of justice. Create an art or informational display in your community (perhaps at a public library, municipal building or school) to share what you learn.
Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.
In William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, filmmakers Emily and Sarah Kunstler try to make sense of their father’s journey from middle-class family man, to protest movement lawyer, to being both revered as a hero and reviled as the most hated lawyer in America. The feature-length (86-minute) documentary recalls landmark legal cases involving civil rights and anti-war activists, accused terrorists and murderers. Along the way, it raises significant questions about justice, democracy and dissent. This discussion guide helps groups and students talk about this exceptional film.
In this lesson, students will work in groups to review five legal cases in which attorney William Kunstler played a prominent role and consider the power and limitations of the legal system to bring about positive social change. The clips used in this lesson are from the film William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, a documentary on the life and legal cases of attorney William Kunstler.
This multi-media resource list, compiled by Paul A. Bareño of the San Diego Public Library, provides a range of perspectives on the issues raised by the POV documentary William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe. Learn more about civil rights, criminal justice, William Kunstler and the cases featured in the film.