“WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE” ON POV
The documentary portrait of legendary civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, has its television premiere tomorrow night, June 22, on POV. The film is directed by Kunstler’s two daughters, Emily and Sarah, and here, a day after Father’s Day, are their thoughts on rediscovering their dad through film:
POV: How has your views of your father changed over the years, and what is his legacy to you?
Emily: I think that every child has a moment where he or she starts to understand his or her parents as human beings instead of as heroes. For Sarah and me, the stories of our father’s work during the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement were heroic tales. They were our bedtime stories. And then we grew up and tried to reconcile those tales with the man we’d come to know, who was a complicated person. In the process of making Disturbing the Universe, we got to have a fuller understanding of him as a person and as an adult, and not just as a father.
Sarah: When you’re a kid, you hold your parents to a really high moral standard. You want them always to be on the side of right. You’re uncompromising when you see them doing things that you think are wrong. It’s all black and white, good and evil. And as children we really held our father to that standard. He told us that he was on the side of justice and we wanted that to be true always. When we got older, we realized that he was a complicated person, and we didn’t necessarily agree with all of his choices. He didn’t necessarily always come down on the side that we would have wanted him to, but we loved him no matter what. We respected his courage. We understood that life is complicated and we accepted him, complexities and all.
Emily: Our father passed away when we were teenagers, so our relationship with him is suspended at that point. It wasn’t until we decided to make this film that we went back and gained a more nuanced understanding of his work and his life.