IDFA: Advocate

De Balie x IDFA Doc Talk: extended Q&A with director Rachel Leah Jones and Lea Tsemel moderated by Mirthe Frese and with an introduction by Natascha van Weezel

Now almost 75, Lea Tsemel has spent her entire professional life as a human rights lawyer in Israel, mostly defending Palestinians who have resisted occupation both violently and non-violently. The name her opponents gave her reflects the controversial nature of her work: they call her The Devil’s Advocate.

The film follows this passionately committed lawyer over the course of two cases, one concerning a 13-year-old boy involved in a stabbing, and the other a woman who committed a failed suicide attack. We see Tsemel in conversation with the defendants, her team of lawyers and the press, with the filmmakers making clever and effective use of animation in scenes that require anonymity. There are also interviews with her husband, children and colleagues, all of whom testify to her courage, tenacity and unwavering moral sense.

The film also looks back at a number of high-profile cases from her legal career, all of which—with just a single hopeful exception—were stymied by a discriminatory judicial system. Tsemel’s hope for changes in the system and her keen eye for the human behind every case are what keep her going.

Extended Q&A with director Rachel Leah Jones, a guest speaker (tba) and Lea Tsemel, the human rights advocate whom this film follows. They will enter into conversation with moderator Mirthe Frese about topics such as the Israeli justice system and different high profile cases in Lea Tsemel’s career. Introduction before the film screening by Natascha van Weezel.

Part of De Balie x IDFA: Doc Talks.


Rachel Leah JonesFilmmaker
Lea TsemelHuman Rights Advocate and character in the film
Natascha van WeezelAuthor
Mirthe FreseModerator
Sherin SeydaDe Balie Program editor