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TERROR’S ADVOCATE

Director: BARBET SCHROEDER

FRANCE • 2007 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 135 MIN


JACQUES VERGÈS IS THE KIND OF LAWYER THAT PEOPLE LOVE TO HATE. OVER SEVERAL DECADES, HE’S MADE A CAREER OF DEFENDING SOME OF THE MOST DESPISED FIGURES OF OUR TIME—FROM ANTI-COLONIAL BOMBERS IN ALGERIA TO LEFTWING EXTREMISTS LIKE CARLOS THE JACKAL AND RIGHT-WING DICTATORS LIKE SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC.
The contradictory agendas of Verges’ clients have made his own politics hard to pin down, and such a morally ambiguous character might put off most directors. But Barbet Schroeder has always been drawn to this type of man. Reversal of Fortune adapted the true story of another lawyer defending a dubious client, and his documentaries include a famous film about Idi Amin. In filming Terror’s Advocate, Schroeder gained access to several former clients of Verges who have never before given such candid interviews on camera. He takes us into the shadowy world where one country’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighters. Verges first came to prominence during Algeria’s struggle for independence in the 1950s. He defended Djamila Bouhired, the woman who planted the bomb at the Milk Bar, an incident dramatised in The Battle of Algiers. Verges fell in love with Bouhired while she was in jail; the couple later married and had two children. Schroeder frames Verges’s subsequent career as a continual attempt to recapture this heroic era of romance and anti-colonial struggle, whatever the price. Schroeder has said he approaches his fiction films like documentaries and his documentaries like fiction. Terror’s Advocate plays out like a gripping detective story where the mysteries are manifold and the characters larger than life. But the stakes feel even more dramatic for being real.—Thom Powers/Toronto Film Festival.

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