The Gatekeepers Review

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For the first time ever, the six surviving former heads of Israel's domestic intelligence agency discuss their work in counter-terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza.


The Israel-Palestine question continues to provoke passionate discourse and defy easy answers, 65 years after the state of Israel was founded. Film has produced countless perspectives on the complex issue, as widely varied as Steven Spielberg’s Munich and, more recently, the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras. Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh’s extraordinary documentary, The Gatekeepers, offers a new and startling perspective, shedding light on Israel’s security and counter-terrorism activities since its decisive victory in 1967’s Six Day War.

It’s anybody’s guess how Moreh convinced the six surviving heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence and counter-terrorism agency, to be interviewed on the record, but he makes the most of the opportunity. As each of the former heads discusses state-sanctioned assassinations, the bombings of terror suspects and the tragic yet inevitable civilian deaths classed as “collateral damage”, it becomes increasingly clear that each of the men interviewed has a desperate need to explain their actions, if not excuse or atone for them.

This is incendiary stuff, illustrated and contextualised with extraordinary archive footage, computer simulations and enhanced photographs. There’s a whiff of The Fog Of War in the way that Moreh extricates intimate confessions from his (mostly elderly) subjects, who reflect the futility and moral bankruptcy of answering violence with violence, the dubious policy of committing murder to prevent murder, and the inherent hopelessness of a situation with no easy solution, and no end in sight.

Insightful, revelatory and profound, Moreh's Oscar-nominated documentary combines riveting interviews, archive footage and - yes - state-of-the-art photographic effects to offer a unique perspective on the Israel-Palestine issue.