Here’s why Irwin Cotler says his political prisoner clients are the real heroes

Irwin Cotler is featured in a new documentary, 'First to Stand'.

Did you know that Irwin Cotler, the renowned human rights lawyer who is now Canada’s special envoy on antisemitism, was once poisoned by the Soviets? Or that he was arrested by the then-apartheid regime in South Africa?

A new documentary about his life and work, First to Stand: The Cases and Causes of Irwin Cotler, is making its world debut this weekend in Montreal.

It’s not a biography—the film instead traces his four-decade career representing the likes of the late Nelson Mandela, Natan Sharansky and Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger sentenced to a thousand lashes and 10 years in prison. Audiences will catch a glimpse of what it’s like travelling the world to stand up to oppressive regimes as Cotler collaborates with allies including the acclaimed human rights lawyer Amal Clooney in the United Kingdom.

Ellin speaks with one of the filmmakers, Irene Angelico (who produced and directed along with partner Abbey Neidik) to discuss the four years they spent following Cotler around with their cameras—and then Cotler himself joins Ellin to describe why his clients and their families are the real heroes.

What we talked about:


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