It was important to Emily and Sarah Kunstler, the directors of “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America,” that the film was a collaboration between Black and white producers because they believe racism in America is a collective legacy. “It’s not the responsibility of Black America to make sure that we remember this history or remember this history for us,” Sarah Kunstler says on Variety “Doc Dreams” presented by National Geographic. “It’s a history that requires white people to reckon with it.”
As the daughters of lawyer and civil rights activist William Kunstler, recently portrayed by Mark Rylance in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020), Emily and Sarah Kunstler were ready to join the conversation about race and inequality, especially after meeting criminal defense attorney Jeffery Robinson.
“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” interweaves lectures, interviews, personal anecdotes and shocking revelations from Robinson. He draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America.
Robinson says racism continues to thrive in the U.S. and globally because the willful ignorance of its existence isn’t just specific to Black people.
“He teaches you this is a history that’s been stolen from all of us, and it is our collective responsibility to get it back,” says Sarah Kunstler.
The film has generated healthy and lively discussions during its festival runs and guild screenings, with Robinson telling one audience member at the AFI Film Fest: “The title is very intentional. It’s ‘A Chronicle of Racism’ and not ‘The Chronicle of Racism.’ But the discussion is not over.”
It was challenging to decide what to include from Robinson’s informative three-hour lecture, which is different each time he delivers it. Emily Kuntsler, who also serves as the editor, says, “It was a reductive editing process. It wasn’t a traditional editing process for me at all.”
For Emily Kunstler, a conversation Robinson has with a man defending a confederate monument (in which he despicably says, “slaves were treated like family”) stood as the thesis of the project. “I knew it was an important moment for the movie.”
“Who We Are,” distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, hits theaters on Jan. 14.