Documentary on Israeli Lawyer Who Defends Palestinians Nominated for Two Emmy Awards

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A still from 'Advocate.'
A still from 'Advocate.'Credit: Philippe Bellaïche

The Israeli documentary film, “Advocate,” which follows noted human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel, has been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the Best Documentary and Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary categories.

The award ceremony will be held on September 28, in a separate event from the Emmy award ceremony for television series.

The film, which was directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche and originally produced for Israel’s Hot 8, focuses on the personality of Tsemel, a human rights lawyer who represents Palestinians in Israeli courts. It was an Oscar documentary nominee in 2019.

Trailer for 'Advocate'

“It’s a great honor for us, as international filmmakers, to receive such recognition from our colleagues in the United States, following the broadcast of the American version of the film as part of the Public Broadcasting Corporation’s series of leading documentaries,” Jones and Bellaïche said in a statement.

“Thanks to them, the film, and especially its subject matter, reached about 200 million screens across North America,” they said.

Before it was aired on American television, the film won a clutch of other prizes at the Sundance Festival and Best Film award at Tel Aviv’s DocAviv festival in 2019.

The DocAviv award caused a political uproar. Following political pressure exerted by right-wing actors, Mifal Hapayis, the state-owned lottery company, said it was pulling funding for future grants given to best picture winners at the festival and refused the award the producers the prize money.

Artists in the film and television industries protested the move, saying it would silence creative voices and amounted to censorship. Three authors – Nomi Levitsky, Lea Aini and Orit Wohlfeiler – removed their names from the list of candidates for the Sapir Prize, another honor awarded by Mifal Hapayis. Scores of other writers claimed that the company had withdrawn support for the film “for improper political reasons” and promised that if they won the prize, they would share the winnings with the producers of “Advocate.”

Ultimately, Mifal Hapayis reneged on its decision to withdraw its support from the DocAviv festival.

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