: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Completed


Lea Tsemel defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from non-violent demonstrators to armed militants. As a Jewish-Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for nearly 50 years, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits.


For almost 50 years, Lea Tsemel has defended Palestinians: from feminist to fundamentalists, from nonviolent demonstrators to armed militants. She was the first, and for many years only, Jewish lawyer willing to defend political prisoners with so-called “blood on their hands.” As far as her fellow Israelis are concerned, she defends the indefensible. As far as Palestinians are concerned, she's more than an advocate, she’s an ally. Today, her clients include the children of the latest uprising: desperate, disillusioned kids who hit the streets with knives stolen from their mother’s kitchens thinking they’ll become men as martyrs. Advocate is a story that revolves around a woman who, in the tireless quest for justice, has never been afraid to get her own hands dirty.

Structured loosely as “a year in the life of Lea Tsemel” we follow her current caseload in real time — especially the high-profile trial of her youngest client to date. At pivotal plot points, we go back in time to revisit her landmark cases. Through these cases, we reflect on the political significance of her work and the personal price one pays for assuming the role of “devil’s advocate.” Throughout the film, we assume the privileged position of a fly on the wall in her practice, where a year of documenting is like gathering a lifetime of evidence. This evidence attests to the ills of occupation but also to the faults of those who try to resist it, the failings of those who try to defend them, and the fundamental flaws of a legal system that purports to serve justice but in fact serves the powers-that-be.


No artisic statement provided


Rachel Leah Jones - Director/Prodcuer

Director/Producer — Rachel Leah Jones Born in Berkeley, California and raised between Berkeley and Tel Aviv, Jones is a critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker. Her directing credits include: 500 DUNAM ON THE MOON (2002) commissioned by France Channel 2; ASHKENAZ (2007) commissioned by Israel Channel 8; TARGETED CITIZEN (2010) commissioned by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; and GYPSY DAVY (2012) commissioned by Israel Channel 8 (Sundance 2012). In addition to making her own films, Jones has produced extensively with others, e.g. WALL by Simone Bitton (Cannes 2004; Special Jury Prize Sundance 2005) and has been affiliated with progressive media outlets such as DEMOCRACY NOW! in New York.

Director/Producer — Philippe Bellaiche Born in Paris, France, Bellaiche is an award-winning DP whose credits include (partial list): BETWEEN FENCES (Berlin 2016); ONCE I ENTERED A GARDEN (Rome 2012); Z32 (Venice 2008); and AVENGE BUT ONE OF MY TWO EYES (Cannes 2005) by Avi Mograbi; GYPSY DAVY (Sundance 2012) by Rachel Leah Jones; THE FLAT (Tribeca 2012; Israel Academy Award 2011) by Arnon Goldfinger; THE SETTLERS (Sundance 2016) and HOTHOUSE (Special Jury Prize Sundance 2007) by Shimon Dotan; RAGING DOVE (First Prize DocAviv 2002; Certificate of Merit SFIFF 2002) by Duki Dror; ROUTE 181: FRAGMENTS OF A JOURNEY THROUGH PALESTINE/ISRAEL (Second Prize Yamagata 2005) by Eyal Sivan and Michel Khleifi; FORGET BAGHDAD (FIPRESCI Award Locarno 2002) by Samir Jamal al-Din. In 2013, Bellaiche received the Cinema Arts Award from the Israel Ministry of Culture.


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