Israel’s Culture Minister, MK Miri Regev, condemned on Monday, June 3, the awarding of first prize in this year’s Tel Aviv Documentary Film Festival (Docaviv) to a film on an Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinians. The award includes a cash prize of NIS 70,000 (about $20,000) and an additional NIS 150,000 to promote the film as the Israeli candidate for the prestigious Academy Awards.
Advocate, directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, follows an Israeli human rights lawyer, Lea Tsemel, who has been defending Palestinian political prisoners for over 50 years, from nonviolent demonstrators to armed fighters, in a continuous fight for justice. The film debuted at the international Sundance Film Festival and premiered in Israeli during Docaviv, which ended last Saturday night.
In their decision to award the prize to Advocate, the Docaviv judges called the film “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 documentary “sketches a complex portrait of a strong and inspiring woman who believes in the justice of her path with all her heart.”
Miri Regev reacted to the award by saying “It is outrageous and irritating to have a film centered on Lea Tsemel, an attorney who represents, supports, and speaks in the name of many who aim to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel. These individuals inflict terror on our soldiers and citizens and then enjoy the legal and public protection of Tsemel.”