Documentary on Israeli Lawyer Who Defends Palestinians Wins at DocAviv Festival

'Advocate,' directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, celebrates the attorney Lea Tsemel

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From the documentary "Advocate" about Lea Tsemel.
From the documentary "Advocate" about Lea Tsemel.Credit: Philippe Bellaiche

“Advocate,” a documentary about attorney Lea Tsemel who defends Palestinians accused of terror attacks, was named best picture Wednesday at Tel Aviv’s annual Docaviv film festival.

“Advocate” was directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche.

“Once Upon a Boy,” a film by Uri Levi about a boy with cerebral palsy, won the Judges’ Award, and “Leftover Women,” a film by Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia, won for both directing and editing. “Mussolini’s Sister” by Juna Suleiman won for a filmmaker’s maiden effort, and also took the cinematography prize.

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The judges said “Advocate” is “a thought-provoking project that addresses an important subject and demonstrates impressive cinematic skills, especially the innovative and intelligent use of animation.” They added that the film “sketches out a complex portrait of a strong and inspiring woman who believes in the justice of her path with all her heart.”

The film won the Howard Gilman Award of 70,000 shekels,($19,350) and a special marketing grant from the Mifal Pais Council for Culture and the Arts totaling 150,000 shekels, which will be paid in two stages: 100,000 shekels when the film is submitted for consideration for an Oscar and 50,000 shekels if it is nominated for an Oscar. It will also be screened on the channel Hot 8.

“Once Upon a Boy” documents a couple and their three children, one of whom has cerebral palsy, leading to a trip to the United States for a complex operation. Levi was granted the 20,000-shekel prize for his ability “to portray with great skill the intimate dynamics in a family that has a special-needs child.” The film will be shown on the channel Yes Docu.

Shlam and Medalia’s film, which also competed at the Tribeca Film Festival, won 32,000 shekels. The film deals with Chinese women in their 20s who have yet to marry and are referred to by the government as “leftover women.” Suleiman’s film, which tells the story of her grandmother’s life in her claustrophobic house, won 37,000 shekels.