When you're reading or experiencing historically significant event/crises, you often wish that you could be a fly on the wall in the halls of power to observe those tasked with making the tough and occasionally world changing decisions. Well, documentary filmmaker Dror Moreh does just that shining a light on the evolution of the Israeli/Palestinian relations since the 'Six Day War' 1967 through the succession of six former heads of the 'Shin Bet' - Israel's Secret Service. In a series of interviews that border on interrogations Moreh frames history through the prism of successive leaders Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter and Yuval Diskin. The six key figures (Shalom, Peri, Gillon, Ayalon, Dichter and Diskin) really need to be commended for their candour. It is striking sitting and listening to how seamlessly occupation leads to terrorism and how the torturous cycle of vengeful cruelty gained momentum. Furthermore, it is fascinating to consider the inherent positivity of a fair warring contest. After the ease with which the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) conquered their opposition, they were left prepared for their great battles without ever getting to fight. Suddenly the angst of occupation swelled into violence allowing the Israeli's to naturally channel their tension into espionage (infiltrating their colonials) and counter terrorism. Moreh's style (without physically appearing on screen) exerts a forceful presence. There are a number of occasions throughout where Moreh isn't afraid to repeatedly cross examine the participants. The moral barometer of these leaders during war (on terror or otherwise) is irrevocably skewed by their immersion in a world teetering on the brink of riot, or murder — either from conservative critics or the occupied peoples themselves. It's great to surrender to the escalation of the discourse if they evade any of his direct questions.
Surprisingly too that although the focus is on the Israeli Secret Service it doesn't feel inherently like an attack on Palestine or to contrast a 'rosy' account of Israel.
It's hard to flaw brave documentary cinema that encourages discourse on pertinent subjects; however, Moreh's overt punctuation of each segment of THE GATEKEEPERS felt jarring at times. Just as you found one of the interviewees arriving at the precipice of a revelation or a particularly raw reaction to the questions the screen dramatically faded to black — dropping an inter-title subheading that often stole thunder from his questions or their insight.
THE GATEKEEPERS doesn't want to function in binaries, it immerses you into the moral and ethical 'grey' quandary of Israel/Palestine. It's an opportunity to sit around a circle of elders that faced with war, occupation and oppression that pose peace as the only answer.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Dror Moreh
Starring: Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin
THE GATEKEEPERS is released on 5 September 2013.
THE GATEKEEPERS is distributed by Madman Films