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Short Takes: The Gatekeepers

By Nicolas Rapold in Film Comment

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(Dror Moreh, Israel, 2012)

The Gatekeepers Dror Moreh

Before any of the subjects speak, Dror Moreh’s documentary comes endowed with unique cachet: the filmmaker has reeled in six former heads of Israel’s spy/counter-terrorism agency the Shin Bet—men whose professional lives have been defined less by conventional law than by risk management, who were entrusted with the power of life and death on behalf of the state, and who seem to know the score when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Pull up a chair. These “gatekeepers”—to peace? to war?—sagely recount the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations since the late Sixties from within the belly of the beast, analyzing how Intifadas, assassinations, and bombings have shifted security priorities and the national mindset. Moreh’s interviewees span generations, from elder statesman Avraham Shalom (mastermind of the 1960 Adolf Eichmann grab) to most recent spook-in-chief Yuval Diskin. Each displays a disarming mix of even-voiced candor and respect for talk-it-out diplomacy.

The widescreen photography sets these bullish talking heads in a visual scheme that’s at once ethereal and metallic. (Unsurprisingly, as intelligence veterans they don’t blink much, though they do grin at the memory of a job well done.) Moreh fleshes out their testimony with archival material, digital renderings, and footage from bombing operations, which suggest a God’s-eye perspective. The result is a bone-tired open letter that refrains from explicitly excusing past deeds but does advocate for a new path in the future.

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