LEA TSEMEL ORECHET DIN

Israel, Canada , Switzerland 2019

Synopsis

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 ally.

Directors Statement

We first met Lea 25 years ago. By then, the once anonymous firebrand law student who, after the 1967 war, had fearlessly distributed flyers on campus warning her fellow Israelis to end the occupation or risk a vicious cycle of violence — was already a household name. For us, socially and politically engaged filmmakers, her rebellious spirit and radical zeal were an inspiration. But we could never do what Lea does; most people couldn’t. In her life, as in her work, Lea straddles an incredible divide. On the one hand, she’s the little boy calling the Emperor naked, i.e. naming the system’s most fundamental fault: the occupier is judging the occupied. On the other hand, she’s the boy with his finger in the dam, doing her utmost to uphold the rule-of-law before the flood of injustice drowns us all. As one military court judge once put it: “If Lea Tsemel didn’t exist, we’d have to invent her.”
Lea spoke truth to power before the term became popular and she’ll continue to do so after fear makes it fashionable. As such, she is a model we’re hard-pressed to preserve, in Israel and elsewhere. Lea, who has spent a lifetime going against the grain of Israeli society, is as much a product of it as she is an exception to it. Through her, we tell another kind of Israeli history, without a capital H. Not the usual: “We came, we saw, we conquered, we shot, we cried.” More like: “We cooked, we cleaned, we cursed, we tried to better the world, but didn’t always manage ...” Unlike the seminal works of recent years (THE LAW IN THESE PARTS, THE GATEKEEPERS, CENSORED VOICES), this is a female-centred story. Lea is almost always the only woman, or the only leftist, or the only Jew — in the room.
For the past two decades, we’ve watched Lea work with a mixture of awe and admiration, marvelling at the fact that interrogators still infuriate her, prosecutors still madden her, judges still frustrate her, verdicts still disappoint her — and clients still break her heart. If we do our job right, yours will break too.

Director's Biography

RACHEL LEAH JONES (Director/Producer)
Born in Berkeley, California, in 1970 and raised between Berkeley and Tel Aviv, Rachel is a critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on Israel/Palestine. She has a BA in Race, Class and Gender Studies and an MFA in Documentary Media Arts. In addition to making her own films, Jones has produced extensively with others, e.g. WALL by Simone Bitton and has been affiliated with progressive media outlets such as DEMOCRACY NOW! in New York.

PHILIPPE BELLAICHE (Director/Producer)
Born in Paris in 1967, Philippe is an award-winning DP. A cinematography lecturer and master class teacher, Bellaiche also received the Cinema Arts Award in 2013.

Filmography:
Rachel Leah Jones:
2019 - ADVOCATE, doc.
2011 - GYPSY DAVY, doc.
2010 - TARGETED CITIZEN
2007 - ASHKENAZ
2002 - 500DUNAM ON THE MOON, doc.

Philippe Bellaiche:
2019 - ADVOCATE, doc.
- as DoP:
2016 - BETWEEN FENCES
2016 - THE SETTLERS
2012 - GYPSY DAVY
2012 - ONCE I ENTERED A GARDEN
2012 - THE FLAT
2011 - INCESSANT VISIONS
2008 - Z32
2007 - HOTHOUSE
2005 - AVENGE BUT ONE OF MY TWO EYES
2005 - ROUTE 181:FRAGMENTS OF A JOURNEY THROUGH PALESTINE/ ISRAEL
2005 - THE JOURNEY OF VAN NGUYEN
2004 - FROM LANGUAGE TO LANGUAGE
2002 - FORGET BAGHDAD
2002 - RAGING DOVE
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaiche

Written by: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaiche

Produced by: Joelle Bertossa, Paul Cadieux, Philippe Bellaiche, Rachel Leah Jones

Cinematography: Philippe Bellaiche

Editing: Yael Bitton

Production Design: Yoav Brill

Original Score: Robert Marcel Lepage

Sound: Rachel Leah Jones

Animation: Tal Kantor

Visual Effects: Julien Chabot-Paquet, John Tate

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Documentary Selection 2019