Gatekeepers, The: Best of the Decade–Moreh Revelatory Israeli Docu

Highly acclaimed, The Gatekeepers had won the Best Foreign Language Film from the National Society of Film Critics (of which I am a member).

Placed as one of the top films of 2012 on many critics’ lists, this illuminating docu was theatrically by Sony Classics, and became one of the most commercialy successful Israeli features ever released in the U.S.

Charged with overseeing Israel’s war on terror-both Palestinian and Jewish, the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, is present at the crossroad of every decision made. For the first time ever six former heads of the agency agreed to share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions.

The Gatekeepers offers a precise account of the sum of their success and failures. It validates the reasons that each man individually and the six as a group came to reconsider their hard-line positions and advocate a conciliatory approach toward their enemies based on a two-state solution.

Narrative Structure
The film consists of seven segments:

No Strategy, Just Tactics, the emerging role of the Shin Bet from the Six-Day War and the occupation of the Palestinian territories

Forget About Morality, the Bus 300 affair
One Man’s Terrorist Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter, the peace process after the Oslo Accords
Our Own Flesh and Blood, Jewish terrorism, the Jewish Underground, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

Victory Is to See You Suffer, negotiations with the Palestinians during the Second Intifada

Collateral Damagem the assassination of Yahya Ayyash and prominent Hamas militants

The Old Man at the End of the Corridor, reflections on the activities of the Shin Bet and their impact on the country

Some of these segments also deal with the controversy about collateral damage, the efficacy of torture, and the morality of targeted assassination.

The film’s events are illustrated with archival footage and computer-generated imagery. The reenactment of the Bus 300 incident is based on photos and eyewitness accounts.

Director’s Goal:

In “The Gatekeepers,” I go to the heads of the Shin Bet, the people with the power to shape history from behind the scenes. Living in the shadows, they have never spoken about their work in front of a camera before.

The idea to do this movie came to me while I was working on my previous film, “Sharon.” From my discussions with the prime minister’s innermost circle of advisors, I learned how the critique of some of these Gatekeepers influenced Sharon’s decision to disengage from Gaza.

I went to each of the Gatekeepers and asked them to tell me their life stories. I wanted them to share their unique perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict. I was startled, but also thrilled, when they agreed. This gave me an unprecedented, intimate opportunity to enter the inner sanctum of the people who have steered Israel’s decision-making process for almost half a century.

The Gatekeepers were generous with their time and information. Some were better storytellers than others, but they each had a story to tell in their own distinct voices. They were there at all the most important junctions in the history of the State of Israel since the Six Day War.

Day after day, while interviewing them, I found myself staring in disbelief at these anonymous soldiers. Their stories and testimonies were often overwhelming. I couldn’t help but ask asking myself how far I would have gone if confronted with the same life-or-death dilemmas that they dealt with on a day-to-day basis. I still do.

No one understands the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians better than these six men. When they speak, leaders listen. Perhaps the time has come for the Gatekeepers to address the people at large, and not just the inner circles of decision-makers.

I hope this film initiates that dialogue.

Dror Moreh