The Gatekeepers

Dror Moreh’s film features first ever interviews with heads of Israel’s Shin Bet agency.

Released in cinemas 12th April 2013.

This fascinating but frustrating film from Dror Moreh was one of the few documentaries in a particularly strong year to be Oscar-nominated, lauded over the likes of The Imposter, West of Memphis and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. Unlike the previously mentioned titles, this look at the various former heads of Israel’s internal security service agency Shin Bet is strictly of the talking head documentary style.

Its power lies in the frank and open admissions of the six men interviewed as they address their difficult roles in counter-terrorism and perspectives of the Israel-Palestine conflict in hindsight. Divided into chapters titled by provocative opinions, it skips through time as the former heads reflect on their actions. The agency’s involvement in the Bus 300 executions and the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is covered, along with reflections on the torture and radicalism and the shades of grey that intelligence operates in.

It’s pointed out at the beginning that Shin Bet’s heads had never given interviews before, but there’s no commentary about how and why they opened up. There is something remarkable about watching these mild-mannered suits calmly talking about the decision of which size bomb to drop on a building, but also something alarming about one frail old man’s gentle amusement as he is questioned about death. There’s a softly softly approach to the interviewees, and few challenges, but the film from an Israeli filmmaker does feel impartial.

The only allowances for anything cinematic are Moreh’s unique approach in using photographs, bringing them to life vividly before the moment was captured. Moreh’s film doesn’t do anything with its blistering revelations, giving it the feel of a TV documentary. However, this is a story without a conclusion, and the director merely opens up an intriguing window into Shin Bet’s world before petering out.

Rating: 7/10