Now almost 75, Lea Tsemel has spent her entire professional life as a human rights lawyer in Israel, mostly defending Palestinians who have resisted occupation both violently and non-violently. The name her opponents gave her reflects the controversial nature of her work: they call her The Devil’s Advocate.
The film follows this passionately committed lawyer over the course of two cases, one concerning a 13-year-old boy involved in a stabbing, and the other a woman who committed a failed suicide attack. We see Tsemel in conversation with the defendants, her team of lawyers and the press, with the filmmakers making clever and effective use of animation in scenes that require anonymity. There are also interviews with her husband, children and colleagues, all of whom testify to her courage, tenacity and unwavering moral sense.
The film also looks back at a number of high-profile cases from her legal career, all of which—with just a single hopeful exception—were stymied by a discriminatory judicial system. Tsemel’s hope for changes in the system and her keen eye for the human behind every case are what keep her going.