The Lawyer (Review) – Two worlds collide in Belgrade

‘Advokatas’

BFI Flare 2020 presents The Lawyer.


Despite BFI Flare having fallen foul of the current global pandemic, we remain committed to bringing you some of the best films that were due to grace the BFI Southbank this year. Following on from his 2016 film, You Can’t Escape Lithuania, writer/director Romas Zabarauskas The Lawyer explores the interface between wealth and position in gay life while dissecting the trauma, hope and resilience of LGBTQ refugees entering Europe. Here an unlikely romance sits centre stage as we are urged to question the barriers faced by refugees and the apparent safety of Europe as two opposing worlds of gay experience collide in Belgrade.

Marius (Eimutis Kvosciauskas) is a successful lawyer based in Vilnius, Lithuania. His life is a mix of business and parties. However, there is something missing from his abundant life as he is surrounded by creeping loneliness, his life an ocean of casual meets that offer little love or security. However, on accessing an online gay webcam service, where sexual gratification can be brought or sold with little conversation, Marius finds himself intrigued by Ali (Dogac Yildiz), a Syrian refugee earning a meagre living through online prostitution.

His intrigue and desire lead him to ask Ali for his phone number, breaking the rules of a site where sexual activity is based purely on money and anonymity. But is Marius’ interest in Ali mere sexual power play? Or does Marius see himself as a liberator and saviour of the young man?


READ MORE: 15 YEARS


There is always an inherent risk when combining important discussions on human rights with an, at times, uneasy romance. This risk is even greater when exploring the plight of refugees in finding a safe haven, free from persecution and discrimination. Therefore, it is unusual to find a film that so eloquently balances the core discussions of its narrative. Here Zabarauskas layers his story with heartfelt emotion while challenging public perceptions and unconscious bias, combining the freedom of love, with the social challenges of identity, safety and belonging.

The Lawyer not only dissects the reality that LGBTQ refugee experience can differ based on the actual or perceived labels of the individual but asks us all to reflect on where vulnerability based on sexual orientation starts and ends when seeking refuge. Here countries seen as being a potential safety net can also accelerate rather than diminish sexual risk. However equally fascinating is the journey of Marius, who finds his privilege evaporating through his connection to Ali. Here his self-protective bubble is pierced by an understanding of the wider needs of a global LGBTQ community – an awakening beautifully brought to life in the hands of Eimutis Kvosciauskas.

The Lawyer provides us with a truly unique and visually stunning journey into what it means to be human. While at the same time, challenging the damaging perceptions that pervade of those who seek refuge – perceptions built on the concept of refugees as victims or villains. Whereas in reality, they are both heroes and survivors who seek to build a better future and deserve the right to do so without the fear of rejection.


READ MORE: FLEE


Director: Romas Zabarauskas

Cast: Eimutis KvosciauskasDogac YildizDarya Ekamasova,