Documentary on Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel wins an Emmy

Advocate was also nominated for a second award, Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary.

 LEA TSEMEL (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Advocate, a film about controversial Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel, who has defended terrorists, won an Emmy for Best Documentary at the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, which were awarded at a ceremony on Wednesday night in the US.

Advocate was also nominated for a second award, Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary, which was won by the film, Kingdom of Silence, about the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi Arabian government.

Advocate was broadcast on US television by POV, the independent documentary showcase that presents films on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). PBS dominated the documentary Emmys this year, winning 10 awards.

The film, which was made by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, has drawn protests in Israel a number of times following its 2019 win in the Israeli competition at Docaviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Festival. Following this award, Mifal Hapais, which donated prize money to Docaviv, announced it would reconsider funding future prizes at Docaviv after bereaved families of terror victims demonstrated in anger.

The film was set to be screened at the Docaviv Galilee festival in 2019 at a municipal auditorium in Ma’alot Tarshiha, but then-mayor Arkady Pomeranets canceled the screening, a decision which was praised by then-Culture Minister Miri Regev. The movie was shown at the event, but in a different auditorium that was not owned by the municipality. Families of terror victims also protested when the film was nominated for an Ophir Award for Best Documentary, and asked that it be disqualified. The film was not disqualified and won the Ophir Award in 2020.