Facts and Figures
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 14th March 2013
Box Office USA: $2.4M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: Arte France, Les Films du Poisson, Cinephil, RTBF, NDR
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 96 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
The Gatekeepers Review
The former heads of Israel's military anti-terrorism agency Shin Bet break their silence in this unnerving, eye-opening documentary. Nominated for an Oscar, the film is structured around interviews with these six men, so there isn't much in the way of balanced reporting. Although it's surprising how honest they are about the moral shadiness of their work. And how their opinions have shifted since they stepped down from the job.
After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel's government stopped thinking of Palestinians as wartime enemies: now they are terrorists. So they set up Shin Bet as a secret service to contain them. The stated goal was to find peace, but few Israeli government officials ever bothered to talk to Palestine's leaders, demanding "peace" only on Israel's terms. Talking to filmmaker Moreh's cameras, these six former Shin Bet directors share anecdotes about military campaigns, assassinations and various attacks from both Palestinians and radical Jews.
The film is assembled like Errol Morris' The Fog of War, as these men reminisce about their lives and work and second-guess both their decisions and the entire political structure of Israel-Palestine. Many of their stories are deeply horrific accounts of torture and killing, all justified because "you have to forget about morality" in this kind of job. Along the way, they expose shallow governments that want instant results regardless of long-term fallout, and they also reveal the callous ethnic prejudice that infuses Israeli politics. Of course, all of this takes on an especially creepy resonance as we see parallels with the "war on terror" created by Bush-Cheney and picked up by both Obama and America's allies.
As the film progresses, each man begins to admit his doubts. "Being an occupying army has made us cruel," one observes, noting that they used terrorism themselves to wage their assaults. Indeed, all are aware of how the world's grey-shaded reality sits at odds with a more simplistic black-and-white politics. Moreh accompanies the interviews with a wealth of archive footage and photographs, and uses a groundbreaking technique to convert still images into virtual reality so we can prowl around in them from various angles. All of this makes the film haunting and unforgettable, and it affirms that a real search for peace is the only hope the world has left.