Friday, July 12, 2013

FI: The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers
Israel/France/Belgium/Germany, 2012
Directed by Dror Moreh

The thing about secret intelligence services is that they usually wish to remain secretive, so that the public they ostensibly protect, and the enemies they fight, know as little about their operations as possible. That's why The Gatekeepers is so fascinating; its director, Dror Moreh, has managed to get six former directors of the Israeli internal secret service agency, Shin Bet, to candidly discuss the nature of their work, their views on the Palestinian situation, and their opinions on Israel's successes and failures in dealing with life as an occupying power. The result is, at turns, riveting, disturbing, and frustrating.

The most intriguing thing about the film is its morality. None of the men comes across as wholly benevolent or malevolent. Neither do the Israelis or the Palestinians; there are shades of grey throughout. Similarly, the film presents no clear "correct" answer to the region's woes. Instead, it depicts the conditions and history that shape a process that simultaneously paves the way to peace and undermines that peace at every turn. Photos and news/documentary footage are combined with hyper-realistic CGI recreations of events and locations, placing the audience on the ground for several of the events discussed. This heightens our emotional engagement, bringing tinges of immediate horror and disgust where photos alone might leave room for detachment.

There are no talking heads or "experts," here, and no-one from the Palestinian side to provide context. There are only these six men with clear knowledge but varying degrees of moral compromise. Moreh's questioning only occasionally makes the final cut, which allows the men to speak at length without interruption or hectoring, leaving them free to contradict themselves or reveal their feelings through looks and tone of voice. These aren't "gotcha" interviews, like those in Michael Moore's work or even Inside Job; Moreh's intent is not to skewer, but to elucidate. And the picture his film reveals is one of a solvable problem where trust and respect have been so eroded by both sides' choices, the solution will always remain just out of sight.

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