ADVOCATE – A Review by Cynthia Flores

ADVOCATE – A Review by Cynthia Flores

Documentaries are supposed to show us parts of the world we may not know. Some documentaries are upbeat, but most cover some pretty grim realities. The documentary films that deal with tough subjects are frequently tough to watch. Not just because of their subject matter but because of the style of the film. Advocate, created by filmmakers Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche has done a tremendous job covering its subject matter while making it an accessible story. Not an easy task considering the film is about Israeli Attorney Leah Tsemel. She has been called a traitor at worst, and devil’s advocate at best, for her decades-long defense of Palestinians. She has been a lawyer to those who have been prosecuted for resisting the occupation, both violently and non-violently. The Israeli government even tried to block this award-winning film about her work.

Advocate provides insight into the uneasy complexities of representing Palestinians in Israeli courts. The occupiers effectively judge the occupied in a system that can’t escape the bloody conflict raging between the two sides. The film shows Tsemel in the trenches as she navigates a discriminatory legal system. The use of animated sequences conceals defendants’ identities with collages of indictments running as a backdrop to the animations. The style reminded me of the 1985 music video ‘Take on Me’ by a-ha. It’s a clever use of the technique. It adds to the feeling of chaos that Tsemel addresses concerning the near-impossible chances for her clients’ acquittals.

All this fly-on-the-wall kind of footage is mixed with interviews with Tsemel’s family and friends to reveal her uncanny ability to see the humanity of those accused. As she does her utmost to uphold the rule-of-law before the flood of injustice drowns everyone. This film does a great job of laying out the history and headache that surrounds Israel’s conflict and Tsemel’s involvement with it. She considers herself an angry optimist and still has faith that justice will ultimately win.

I give Advocate a 5-star rating. The film has been Oscar-shortlisted for Best Documentary feature and is a must-see this season.


Directed by: Philippe Bellaïche, Rachel Leah Jones

Written by: Rachel Leah Jones

Rated: NR

Selig Rating: 5 Stars

Running Time: 1hr 54min


National Broadcast Debut: July 27th on PBS show POV (Check local listings)

Starring: Lea Tsemel, Tareq Barghout, Michel Warschawski


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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