Hot Docs 2019 Review: ADVOCATE (Canada/Switzerland/Israel 2018) ***

The doc is he story of tireless and fearless Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel who defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from nonviolent demonstrators to armed militants.   She is not popular among the Israelis.   ADVOCATE follows Tsemel’s caseload in real time, including the high-profile trial of a 13-year-old boy — her youngest client to date — while also revisiting her landmark cases and reflecting on the political significance of her work and the personal price one pays for taking on the role of “devil’s advocate.”

Directing duo Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche assume the privileged position of a fly on the wall of Tsemel’s practice, where a year of documenting is like gathering a lifetime of evidence.  The film is exciting as the two cases presented, and the audience sees not only Lea at work but how judicial systems work.  Even if the accused is innocent, a plea bargain is created for the accused to plead guilty for a lesser charge or face greater penalty if found guilty.  

The film is hastily edited with the intercut cases and a lot of padding is evident from the life of Lea from student to her current position.  The interviews of her family – husband, son and daughter break the flow the court cases.