Film poster for "Advocate" with Lea Tsemel
Film poster for "Advocate" with Lea Tsemel
Lea Tsemel, an Israeli-Jewish lawyer who has represented Palestinian political prisoners for nearly 50 years, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits


Regular price $559.00


BEST DOCUMENTARY - Emmy® Awards | "Intimate, powerful" - LA Times | "Thought-provoking" - The New Yorker | BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - Israel Academy Awards

Israel • Palestine • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict • Middle East Studies • Law + Civil Rights • Women's Studies • Human Rights • Justice

Date of Completion: 2019 | Run Time: 108 minutes​​ | Language: Hebrew & Arabic with English, French, Hebrew & Arabic subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript & Study Guide | Directors: Rachel Leah Jones & Philippe Bellaich | Producers: Philippe Bellaiche, Rachel Leah Jones, Paul Cadieux & Joelle Bertossa

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 five decades, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits. As far as most Israelis are concerned, she defends the indefensible. As far as Palestinians are concerned, she's more than an attorney, she’s an advocate.

University of California, Santa BarbaraLisa Hajjar, Professor of Sociology
"Israeli attorney Lea Tsemel is a living legend for her tireless work and fierce dedication to defending Palestinians in Israeli military courts. Advocate brilliantly captures her passion for justice and her motivation to keep fighting against the greatest of odds." 

University of California, Santa Barbara | Sherene Seikaly, Associate Professor of History
Advocate is a powerful documentary that tracks one remarkable lawyer’s battle against the impossibility of Palestinian justice in Israel courts. In its attention to the details and the arc of Lea Tsemel’s life and labor, it sheds piercing light on the present condition of an ever expanding injustice.”

“A textured nonfiction character study of complicated heroism.”

LA Times 
"Intimate, powerful...Expertly directed."

The New Yorker

Filmmaker Magazine
"With their Sundance-premiering Advocate they’ve created an in-the-trenches portrait of this unapologetic firebrand... A remarkable character. A warrior for justice who’s spent her entire adult life taking punch after punch, she forever gets up undaunted to fight another day."

Sight & Sound Magazine 
"Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe BellaÏche’s riveting new documentary pays tribute to the tenacity and selflessness of Jewish Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel, a divisive figure in her home country on account of her unwavering dedication to Palestinian rights... A deeply bittersweet portrait of a magnetic individual."

The Hollywood Reporter
"Absorbingly up close and personal...Compelling." 

The Document
"It’s what we need right now, an engaging way to crack open our thinking about something many of us are sure we already know. A fantastic main character you have to love. A riveting story that will make you mad and give you hope that there are people fighting the good fight. Great filmmaking."

Point of View Magazine 
"A heroic portrait of an Israeli lawyer who defends violent Palestinian offenders, Advocate is a lively exercise in documentary advocacy. This self-described “angry and optimistic woman,” is a natural cinema verité performer, full of flashing energy, quick sardonic retorts and unselfconscious in her moral convictions." 

Film Threat
"Lea Tsemel is a real, flesh-and-blood person, but if you saw someone like her in a fictional film, you might fault the screenwriter for inventing such an implausible character. Advocate is not just a celebration but a continuation of the work she’s dedicated herself to." 

"Thrilling and Exact." 

The New York Times
"Makes for potent viewing as a portrait of a steadfast activist with a controversial cause."

Modern Times Review
"Inspirational and full of heart... Captures the humanity and pain that lays behind aggression and labels, building an insightful picture of a flawed judicial system."

"A portrayal of a strong female figure who defies each and every convention."

Nominee Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary | Emmy® Awards
Best Documentary | 
Emmy® Awards
Best Documentary Feature
Asia Pacific Screen Awards
Nominee Best Documentary FeatureInternational Documentary Association Awards

Nominee Best Directing
International Documentary Association Awards
Nominee Best Documentary FeatureProducers Guild of America
Documentary SelectionEuropean Film Awards
Best Documentary FeatureIsrael Documentary Forum Awards
Best Editing
Israel Documentary Forum Awards
Honoree The Unforgettables
| Cinema Eye Honors
Best EditingSocial Impact Media Award
Best Documentary Feature | Israel Academy Awards
Golden Alexander Award
Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
FIPRESCI Prize | Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
Jury Prize | Hong Kong International Film Festival
Best Israeli DocumentaryDocaviv Film Festival
Golden HornKrakow Film Festival
Best Documentary FeatureMoscow Jewish Film Festival
Best FilmAntenna Film Festival
Audience AwardAntenna Film Festival
Prix SmartFestival des Libertés
Cinema Art AwardLoft Film Festival
Best DocumentaryUK Jewish Film Festival
Best Human Rights FilmVerzio Human Rights Film Festival 
GoE Bridging the BordersPalm Springs International Film Festival
Movies that Matter AwardZagrebDox International Documentary Film Festival 
Best PortraitDocsMX International Documentary Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival
The Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights 

It’s All True International Documentary Film Festival
Moscow International Film Festival
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Dok.Fest München
Biografilm Bologna
Sheffield Doc Fest
Human Rights Watch Film Festival
DocEdge Film Festival
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Dokufest Kosovo
Etat Generuax du Documentaire Lussas
March on Washington Film Festival
Aegean Docs
Irish Film Institute Documentary Festival
Reykjavik International Film Festival
San Francisco Arab Film Festival
Arabian Sights Film Festival
Jewish International Film Festival
Film Festival Diritti Umani Lugano
IndieCork Film Festival
Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival
Philadelphia Film Festival
Milwaukee Film Festival
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival
Scottsdale International Film Festival
Vermont  International Film Festival
UNAFF Stanford
Boston Jewish Film Festival
Other Israel Film Festival
MESA Film Festival
Human Rights Film Festival Zurich
Diritti Umano Film Festival Lugano
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
New Jersey Jewish Film Festival
Encounters South African Documentary Festival
FIPADoc Biarritz
DocPoint Helsinki
HUMAN International Documentary Festival Oslo

Rachel Leah Jones is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose trajectory in the field — from researcher to writer to producer to director to editor — has spanned 25 years and three continents. Her work, which has been awarded by the Asia Pacific Screen Academy (APSA) and the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, was also nominated for the PGA and IDA Awards, selected by the EFA, honored by Cinema Eye, and shortlisted for the Oscars. A two-time Sundance Festival and Institute alumna, her critically-acclaimed films have screened in festivals worldwide like Hotdocs, Sheffield, IDFA and DocNYC and aired on dozens of channels, including: BBC Storyville, ARD Germany, France 2, RTS Switzerland, Channel 8 Israel, YLE Finland, DR Denmark, SVT Sweden, 2M Morocco, Radio Canada, HBO Latin America and PBS/POV. Born in Berkeley, California and raised in Tel Aviv, Jones has a BA in Race, Class and Gender Studies and an MFA in Documentary Media Arts. Her directing credits include: 500 DUNAM ON THE MOON (2002); ASHKENAZ (2007); TARGETED CITIZEN (2010); GYPSY DAVY (2012); and ADVOCATE (2019). In addition to making her own films, Jones has produced for others (e.g. WALL by Simone Bitton, which premiered at Cannes 2004 and won the Jury Prize at Sundance 2005), been affiliated with various progressive media outlets (e.g. DEMOCRACY NOW!), and worked extensively as a story consultant, directing mentor, lector, and curator.