Synopsis by Mark Deming
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 the national media spotlight in 1969 when he defended "the Chicago Eight," activists who were accused of organizing riots during the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention; his flamboyant style in the courtroom fascinated the press, and some believe he soon became as interested in getting his name in the papers and his face on television as he was in the law. In his later years, Kunstler developed a reputation as a man who would defend clients no one else would touch, including drug dealers, accused rapists, organized crime figures, and suspected terrorists, though he remained a passionate advocate of the American legal system. Kunstler's daughters, Emily and Sarah, began asking their famous dad questions about his career and his ideals as children armed with a home movie camera, and they've used some of that footage -- along with vintage newsreels and interviews with Kunstler's friends, foes, and clients -- as the basis for the film William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, a biographical portrait of the man and his legacy. William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe received its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.