Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Video review: "The Gatekeepers"

Perhaps the most amazing thing about “The Gatekeepers” is not just what these men say, but the fact that they are even saying it at all.

This Academy Award-nominated documentary from director Dror Moreh gathers all six surviving heads of Shin Bet, the secretive Israeli security agency. In personal interviews accompanied by newsreel footage, it recounts the history of Israel over the past few decades, as the tiny Jewish nation struggled to gain legitimacy surrounded by Muslim aggressors, and to address the issue of Palestinians living within its borders.

These half-dozen gray heads have clearly been burdened by the secrets they’ve had to keep, and grab the opportunity to speak forthrightly about Shin Bet’s triumphs and failures.

Some of what they have to tell is very disturbing. “No strategy, all tactics” is how one describes Israel’s approach to the Palestinian question. By that he means they spent so much effort on combatting terrorism, they never really formed a broader plan of what to do to foment peace in the long term.
But as enlightening and frightening as their revelations are, just the fact they felt comfortable sitting down with a filmmaker and laying it all out remains the film’s most astonishing feature.

For a corollary, imagine the directors of the CIA and/or FBI stepping forward to give their account of their agencies’ flubs and stupidity going back to Cold War days. It’s almost unimaginable.

Video extras are limited in scope, but meaty. Moreh provides a feature-length commentary track, and also sits down for a Q&A about the making of the film.



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