Revolution #193, February 21, 2010

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe Benefit Film Showing for Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution Books Chicago

We received the following correspondence:

On Saturday, January 23, 200 people packed a sold-out showing of William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago that was a benefit for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution Books Chicago. It was hosted by several prominent people in Chicago: Educator Bill Ayers and lawyer Bernardine Dohrn; Taigen Dan Leighton, Zen teacher and activist; Warren Leming, artist/activist; Denis Mueller, documentary filmmaker of many radical films, including Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train; Jed Stone, criminal defense and anti-death penalty attorney, and Dr. Quentin Young, head of Physicians for a National Health Program.

The multinational, multigenerational audience included activists, artists, attorneys, professors and students, and many '60s people who knew or remembered William Kunstler from his work as a lawyer on the famous Chicago 8 trial of antiwar activists charged with conspiracy for protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

The film is very powerful. It tells the story of William Kunstler's life, how he changed from an average, suburban New York lawyer to a crusader for justice and the rights of the oppressed, taking on the cases of many who were fighting to change society, from the Chicago 8 to the inmates who took over Attica prison to the American Indian Movement who stood up to the federal government at Wounded Knee to the notorious "flag burning" case of Joey Johnson, a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party. It includes interviews with people influenced and transformed by contact with Kunstler—from a prison guard at Attica to a juror in the Chicago 8 trial to Yusef Salaam, one of the victims of the witch hunt and wrongful conviction in the infamous Central Park jogger case. A powerful thread throughout the film is the image of Michaelangelo's statue of David, just as he is contemplating whether to throw the rock at Goliath or just quietly walk away, and its relevance today. And the film takes you on the moving journey of the filmmakers, Kunstler's daughters, Emily and Sarah, as they struggled to understand and came to deeply appreciate the importance of the stand and work of their father. (See Revolution interview with Emily and Sarah Kunstler at

Emily and Sarah answered questions at a lively Q&A, where the questions ranged from artistic choices made by the filmmakers to personal questions about growing up with a controversial father and questions about how they saw the relevance of their father's life to the current world situation. In the Q&A they made a very explicit call for more people to confront the "Goliath" of the injustices of the system as their father had.

Seventy-five or so people stayed for a reception and mingled and talked for nearly an hour after the Q&A. The event raised $1,300 for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Revolution Books Chicago.

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