The devil’s advocate
Barbet Schroeder’s documentary Terror’s Advocate (L'avocat de le terreur [+see also:
film profile]) enjoyed a grand presentation yesterday evening, with Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux taking the stage before the screening, to welcome the director and two illustrious audience members, Michel Piccoli and Pedro Almodóvar.
Making a comeback to documentaries after Amin Dada (1974), Koko and Charles Bukowski (1982), Schroeder – known above all for films such as Barfly (in competition at Cannes in 1987), Reversal of Fortune and Kiss of Death – once again allows himself to be drawn in by his fascination with the sinister in Terror’s Advocate, entering the life of Jacques Vergès, the French lawyer famous for having defended terrorists such as Magdalena Kopp and Carlos, and true "monsters" of contemporary history such as Klaus Barbie and Pol Pot.
The documentary – made up of a series of interviews with Vergès, the many who know him and have stood by him, and documents, some of which have never before been released – offers a portrait of an adept, passionate, ambitious professional who is simultaneously ambiguous and unscrupulous. "The difference between lawyers and doctors is that we can refuse to defend someone," said Vergès, thus begging the question as to why so many impassioned speeches in defence of those responsible for so many deaths.
Someone has to the do the "dirty work", yet from those skilfully edited images that also reconstruct a piece of European history there emerge many questions and the suspicion of a series of personal involvements, ambiguities and compromises that have little to do with codes of ethics. What remains is the elusive seductiveness of an enigmatic man who left France in 1956 to fight colonialism in the war in Algeria to then disappear into the folds of terror.
Shot on a €1.36m budget (with advances on receipts and pre-sales from Canal +), the film was produced by Yalla Films and Wild Bunch, with the participation of the CNC. It is being distributed domestically by Les Films du Losange and sold internationally on the Croisette by Wild Bunch.
(Translated from Italian)
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