In today’s world, there is a delicate line between the controversial notion of a terrorist and a freedom fighter. Somehow the line has become so blurred, that one can have a hard time distinguishing between the two. A terrorist is defined as one who kills for a political reason. So if someone plants a bomb to kill innocent people for a political reason, should she or he be considered as a terrorist?
According to the contentious French lawyer Mr. Jacques Vergès, they are simply freedom fighters, combating for their independence. Thus their actions are not terrorism, but political heroism. And therefore war criminals are just misunderstood warriors!
The new astonishing documentary “Terror’s Advocate” is about the controversial French lawyer Jacques Vergès.
Vergès has made a career and life challenging the definition of a terrorist in court and in the public opinion. In the beginning of the film, Mr. Vergès downplays the 1970s genocide in Cambodia perpetuated by Khmer Rouge by blaming the Americans for most of the killings.
Throughout his professional life Vergès has defended numerous controversial and famous clients such as: Klaus Barbie a member of Sicherheitsdienst (Nazi security service) whose war crimes included personally torturing war prisoners and responsible for the deaths of at least 4000 people.
Ramirez Sanchez, otherwise known as Carlos the Jackal, who was for years on of the most wanted international fugitives.
Waddi Haddad, the so-called Godfather of modern terrorism who organized terrorist camps all over the world and was oversaw the arms traffic for terrorist organizations.
His other famous clients include Francois Genoud, a Nazi financier.
Djamila Bouhired who was responsible for a bombing in Algeria that killed 11 people in 1956. As part of her defense, Vergès utilized the media propaganda machine to turn her into a saint and a revolutionary figure. This strategy led her being granted a pardon. Later, Vergès married her after her release from the prison.
On March 5, 1925, Jacques Vergès was born in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand to a Vietnamese mother and Reunion Islander father. After fighting in De Gaulle’s infantry, he studied at the Sorbonne. There he met and befriended his classmate Saloth Sar the future Cambodian Prime Minister better known as Pol Pot, whom to this day Vergès calls him “good friend”. Later, Vergès attended the University of Paris as a law student.
With his red ideology he joined the communist party, which he left after following their political move towards the Fourth Republic. He then adopted a more Anti-Imperialistic ideology. Although some view disfavorably his somewhat manipulative techniques and arguments that have helped secure frequent pardons for his death row clients, in his view he only acted as a messenger rather than a lawyer.
The filmmaker Mr. Barbet Schroeder films includes La Virgen de los sicarios, aka Our Lady of the Assassins, Desperate Measures, Before and After,…
In “terror’s advocate” Schroeder captured Vergès’s complex character and prevents his own perceptions from interfering with the viewer’s own interpretation of Vergès’s arguments. Schroeder never judges his subject and lets the audience decide on their own. With his astounding extended of research and the public nature of the elements the viewer can acknowledged that they are on their own to interpret whether Vergès will have any physical imprint on the world. Schroeder through his “factual” style of storytelling encourages a democratic participation from any viewer to draw his/her conclusion and it is through this method, which Schroeder shows the greatest respect for the viewer and his subject.
Indeed Terror’s Advocate is one of the most researched, engaging and politically charged documentaries with prudent use of symphonic music written by Jorge Arriagada. Equipped with the retrospective lucidity of footage and interviews, the film wants to rationalize the platform of judicial system worldwide.
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Writer: Prosper Keating
Producer: Rita Dagher
Music: Jorge Arriagada
Editor: Nelly Quettier
Director of photography: Caroline Champetier, Jean-Luc Perreard
Runtime: 135 min
Language: French / German / English
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