Iain Boulton, Duty Manager at The Regal Picturehouse, Henley writes about this week’s Discover title, THE GATEKEEPERS.
Nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars, THE GATEKEEPERS sheds light on Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency whose activities and membership are closely guarded state secrets – or they were, until now.
In Dror Moreh’s film, six surviving leaders of the organisation talk candidly, reflecting on the changing socio-political landscape of their homeland, to which their actions have contributed over the years. They relate various accounts of sanctioned assassinations, political tensions and the tragic consequences of their actions – all in spite of a duty to protect the innocent.
These interviews are intertwined with news footage, photographic evidence, and CGI re-enactments to present multiple perspectives on the people in charge of protecting Israel. It is quite a coup that Moreh convinced the former leaders of this top-secret organisation to talk in front of a camera. The six former heads, from those who served during The Six Day War in 1967 to the recently retired, discuss and explain the operations they took part in over the decades. Several frank admissions of guilt and disappointment make the interviews feel like confessions, seemingly questioning the validity of violence to end violence.
The unease that THE GATEKEEPERS engenders in the audience, and the balanced view it presents on a difficult and emotive subject, elevate it to a first-class documentary. On the one hand it reveals the genuine passion felt by the agents for protecting their country. On the other, there is regret over some of their earlier activities surrounding the occupation of Palestine, and a sense of hopelessness. Despite their heroic intentions, their war is seemingly a never-ending one. Moreh deserves credit for putting across these multiple aspects to Shin Bet’s role in Israel’s security. The lengths to which this organisation has gone to stabilise the country may be morally heroic at times, but it’s also a hard reality that there isn’t a resolution to the troubles in sight.
For those interested in a new look at the evolving conflicts involving Israel, THE GATEKEEPERS is a profound eye-opener. For documentary lovers, it’s an absolutely unmissable example of the genre thoroughly deserving of its Oscar nomination.
THE GATEKEEPERS screens on 7 May at Picturehouse Cinemas.
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