Radical left-wing lawyer Jacques Vergès is the subject of the 2007 French documentary “Terror’s Advocate” known in Europe as “L’Avocat de la terreur” directed by Barbet Schroeder. It had its premiere at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
The film opens with Jacques Vergès (5 March 1925 – 15 August 2013) downplaying the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge and trying to cast the blame on the United States for the devastation caused by Pol Pot and his regime. What follows is a series of interviews with Vergès acquaintances, ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and even terrorists who he either worked with or represented in a court of law, particularly during the tail-end of French rule of Algeria. It also covers his mysterious disappearance from 1970 – 1978 when he abandoned his wife and kids. Towards the end, it discusses his role with the known murderer and thug Carlos the Jackal and his gang of mad bombers.
As for the documentary, it is well-shot. As opposed to narration, the documentary uses the subjects of the interviews to move the topics forward and will sometimes juxtapose what they are saying with images and archival footage. The interviews are very illuminating, exposing the nature of violence that a lot of these radicals possessed.
That is what it boils to violence. No one can doubt the poor treatment of Algeria at the hands of the French, but the justification of bombing cafes, casinos, and other civilian locations is terrifying to listen to. Vergès is a lawyer and I believe everyone deserves a fair and just trial, no matter the crime. However, Vergès does not simply represent clients. He actively campaigned for them and even though many of them admitted to performing the worst kinds of tragedies, he was right there shouting their praises and often times paying for them. He was, allegedly, complicit in many of the crimes that were happening and seemed to have foreknowledge of their horrifying actions.
To be clear, the filmmakers in no way endorse his activities or those of his compatriots, but it does not express a hint of anger at them or even sympathy for the victims of these atrocities. Oh sure, they would highlight news articles about the incidents, but not once did they interview a survivor of one of these attacks. Obviously, Vergès has never been proven that he participated in a crime, but his compatriots were all tried, found guilty, and in many cases, including one against a Nazi, he happily took part in their defense on trial and to the media.
In short, Terror’s Advocate is an eye-opening documentary, but not in the way the filmmakers intended. While they were trying to give you a look at a lawyer who defended society’s dregs, it exposed him for the fraud he truly was. He was not a lawyer who tried to offer a defense during a trial. He, allegedly, was a left-wing agitator who supported thugs like Carlos the Jackal, Nazis, and terrorists all while being their cheerleader until his death.
Check out the trailer below:
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