The Gatekeepers (2013)
Critic Consensus: Strikingly stark, brutally honest, and rivetingly assembled, The Gatekeepers offers essential perspective on a seemingly intractable war from some of the men who fought it.
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Critic Reviews for The Gatekeepers
There is a powerful moment in [the film] when Diskin, head of the Shin Bet from 2005 to 2011, candidly remarks that for the Palestinians he is himself a terrorist. That is not relativism but realism, and the welcome sign of an empathetic imagination.
The history is fascinating enough to overcome the film's intrusive digital transitions.
Anyone with a serious interest in Israel should see the extraordinary new documentary The Gatekeepers.
The film bravely pulls focus on Israel's behaviour as an occupying power, the treatment of the Palestinians and joins the growing list of recent films that cast a critical eye over a subject that was once deemed too thorny to question.
This is unprecedented stuff right here, on a topic so volatile it feels like it's just waiting to explode. And as a film, it's effective - for the most part.
Audience Reviews for The Gatekeepers
With keen insights that go beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict, "The Gatekeepers" is a very incisive documentary that consists of interviews with six former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency tasked with overlooking the occupied territories and attempting to stop future terrorist attacks which are impossible to always predict, much less prevent, as it is very difficult to predict how a single human being will always act. And like in the opening conversation, one interviewee points out that there are more than two possible outcomes to every military action, not to mention consequences down the line which he tries to tell his civilian bosses about. While one would assume new technology would make the job easier, that also comes with its own unique set of drawbacks, as another interviewee thinks back fondly on the days they relied on human intelligence.
Even the archival footage is fascinating in itself as it documents incidents those of us living outside of Israel have probably never heard of and form a continuing part of the narrative that starts with Israel's triumphant victory in the 1967 Six Day War, followed by it assuming custody of new territories and new peoples. Ironically, that is the beginning of a perpetual headache that as can be seen here can only be managed, not solved. In the end, the only solution these hardened military men can find is to talk with their opposite numbers, even as the conversation is currently dominated by fanatics.
This documentary directed by Dror Moreh tells us the story of the Israeli Shin Bet - Israel's secretive internal security service - from the perspective of six former heads of this organization - or the "Gatekeepers".
The outstanding in-depth interviews were excellently combined with archival footage and computer animation to recount the role that the group played in Israel's security from the Six-Day War to the present. It is understandable that the film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards. It is amazing to hear words from the head of the security of the country like the ones in this film... "You say, 'Okay, I made a decision and X number of people were killed. They were definitely about to launch a big attack. No one near them was hurt. It was as sterile as possible'. Yet, you still say, 'There's something unnatural about it. What's unnatural is THE POWER YOU HAVE TO TAKE THREE PEOPLE, terrorists, and take their lives in an instant." Open heart from people who daily kept ordering killings because they thought that was their duty in "war against terror"!
Having just completed a film about former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the director Dror Moreh came to realize the decisive role that the Shin Bet had played behind the scenes for the past forty years in Israel. The problem, according to the director, was getting the "Gatekeepers" to agree to appear on camera and discuss their work and opinions. Given the secretive nature of the organization, none of them had ever done this before, and many of the topics he hoped to discuss with them were either classified or highly sensitive.
Despite this initial difficulty, Moreh contacted one of the "Gatekeepers", Ami Ayalon, who had since been elected to the Knesset for the Labor Party and was serving as a Minister without Portfolio in the Security Cabinet. Much to his surprise, Ayalon not only agreed to participate, he also helped Moreh contact the other surviving former heads of the Shin Bet: Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, and Avi Dichter. The sixth participant in the film, Yuval Diskin, was still serving as head of the Shin Bet at the time! Though all the men agreed to participate, some were reluctant initially to discuss various incidents associated with their careers. Shalom, for instance, did not want to discuss his role in the hijacking of the 300 bus and summary execution of two of the terrorists, though the ensuing scandal ultimately led to his resignation. Over time, however, an unbelievable thing happened and with careful prodding, he agreed to discuss even that, and it now features as one of the film's seven segments.
I've been to Israel and Palestine, I went through their security checks, and I know how rough and tough there could be, but this was a revelation for me... something which everyone interested in peace in that region should see and hear. One of the top documentaries of all times about Middle East!
If these men find everything they've done to be futile, then I think we can finally stop debating the merits of the War on Terror.
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