Moreh efficiently – and frankly – interviews six former heads of Shin Bet, the internal intelligence agency that is behind the vast majority of any key decisions in regards to the ongoing conflict the nation has with Palestine, bringing light to some of the most controversial and closely guarded state secrets, and taking a devastating yet hugely informative look into the role Shin Bet plays and how state-sanctioned violence has had such severe implications on a nation striving for peace.
It’s one thing to discuss and be informed of matters surrounding this conflict within the Middle East, but to hear the anecdotes and confessions of what has occurred, from the highest sources available to us, is simply breathtaking. You can’t deny the magnitude nor the authenticity behind their words. This film has a remarkable emotional effect on the audience, as it humanises something so abstract, normally only witnessed in news bulletins. Of course we’ve seen war and the tracking down of terrorists on the big screen before – Zero Dark Thirty, for instance – but this is not dramatised. This is an honest insight into how it all works, as the methods behind decisions are explained, many of which lead to various lives lost, whether they be reactionary or vengeful. When watching news regarding Israel and Palestine, you feel somewhat closer – if possible – to comprehending why this is all going on, and what those behind these seemingly barbarous decisions are hoping to achieve.
Moreh does a fine job in taking us closer to the action itself, as this film is predominantly just interview footage and people speaking, but we still feel connected to the action, as Moreh – a former cinematographer no less – has a brilliant technique whereby he takes a still photograph and brings it to life, reenacting the scenario, leading up to the moment the photo was taken, which really transports us to the time and place this had occurred as we get inside the photo. There are some shocking images on show too, this one is not for the faint hearted. However this film really sums up the futility of war, as Moreh remains entirely impartial – as any good documentary filmmaker should – as neither nation involved is exonerated for the sins committed.
The one key issue as far as the film is concerned, is the distinct lack of narrative structure – it is without any clear beginning, middle or end. Perhaps had Moreh moved through events chronologically it may have been of benefit. The Gatekeepers just feels as though it’s missing any direction or substantial conclusion. However this is not a fault of the filmmaker, as regrettably there is no end to this story, this feud is ongoing and therefore it’s almost impossible to leave this picture with any real clarity. Having this knowledge of futility going into the film makes for a foreboding atmosphere, as we are all aware that things simply haven’t got much better – a key theme to this film, and a depressing one explored by those being interviewed.
Given this film has come from an Israeli director and features interviews solely with Israelis, one had anticipated a somewhat one-sided production, but this is not the case at all, as Moreh ensures that this film carries an overriding anti-terrorism message, with a fair debate offered. Although The Gatekeepers may not be quite theatrical nor dramatic enough for it to be highly recommended as a warranted cinematic experience, this does feel like a film that really should be seen.