director Dror Moreh
The Gatekeepers is a very compelling documentary that features and focusses on interviews with six former directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence and security force. Director Dror Moreh was influenced by seeing Errol Morris’ film The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003) in which former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara candidly spoke about his experiences in the White House during such critical times as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. In Morris’s film, McNamara is the lone interviewee, and reflects on times many decades past with genuine doubts, criticism and insights.
The six former heads of Shin Bet in The Gatekeepers range in age and distance from their time in leadership. Avraham Shalom was head from 1980-1986, the eldest and furthest removed from his time in charge. Yuval Diskin, by contrast, led Shin Bet from 2005–2011.
While some of the insights are fresher and less far removed from the present, a fascinating portrait emerges from men who led anti-terrorism response as terrorism was coming of age. Their perspectives on the Palestinian State and the problems of government are measured and philosophical. Some led more ruthless organizations under their watch, such as Shalom, and are confronted with questions about some more brutal events and terrible outcomes. While McNamara only hedged a small amount in Morris’s film, there is less a full sense of total disclosure here.
The film is no less fascinating however.
Moreh deftly employs computer animation on old photographs, giving a sense of presence and relative omniscience to specific scenes. Omniscience isn’t really something we achieve, that we can achieve but it nonetheless vivifies the moments.
Certainly, one of the better documentaries I’ve seen in a while. My knowledge of Israeli history is not strong enough to fully comprehend all the details confronted or elided here.
I was also reminded of Waltz with Bashir (2009) which took a much more existential approach to reclaiming knowledge of the past, exposing that which has been repressed. The Gatekeepers tells what its subject wish to share. Still illuminating.