The Gatekeepers

March 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter
Directed by: Dror Moreh (“Sharon”)

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature this past year (“Searching for Sugar Man” ultimately won the big prize), “The Gatekeepers” features intriguing and often raw interviews with the six surviving former leaders of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency whose duties include safeguarding state secrets and fighting terrorism. While the organization’s official motto is “Magen Velo Yer’e” (“Defender that shall not be seen”), you can’t fault the six men who provide an insight into the Shin Bet’s operations for speaking out publicly for the first time ever. It’s a compelling albeit conventionally-presented narrative that creates more questions and answers when debating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Directed by Dror Moreh, whose last feature documentary “Sharon” was on Israel’s controversial former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, “The Gatekeepers” presents some moral dilemmas that are timely in the way the U.S. also defends its nation (think drones). In one gripping interview, a former Shin Bet head questions whether or not it is right for the government to strike a terrorist traveling in a vehicle that is also occupied by unknown individuals, possibly family members or children. The Shin Bet head calls the move “unnatural” despite having given the go ahead to perform these types of operations many times in the past. Utilitarianism can be argued for ages, but hearing the thoughts of these specific individuals gives a new meaning to the consequences at hand.

Through real war footage and in-depth testimonials, “The Gatekeepers” might be a bit one-sided at times, but Moreh reveals some fascinating facts from men who have been at the center of the war on terrorism in Israel. Watching the doc is as close as you’re going to get to the subject without actually being there.