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By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2013.
First published 20th August 2013 and revised 20th August 2013 and 20th August 2013. and 20th August 2013.
REVIEW: "THE GATEKEEPERS" by Jayne Waterford

Dror Moreh's "THE GATEKEEPERS" (2012). What an ominous film.

Just to contextualise "THE GATEKEEPERS" in cinematic history: Steven Spielberg's "MUNICH" (2005) starring our very own Eric Bana along side Daniel Craig in hot, hot, hot seventies wardrobe was about Massad. They were about wrecking vengeance on the terrorists who killed their athletes in the 1972 Olympics. Massad is the organisation that employed Ziva David, DiNozzo's hot Israeli girlfriend in televisions "N.C.I.S.." (~ 2003) These guys on the other hand, the Gatekeepers, are bent on suppressing all military activity in their occupied nation, Palestine. The Gatekeepers are men making decisions about security, ie. which terrorists to kill when, in Palestine. Their employer is the Shin Bet, an organisation that replaced Massad.

These guys look like dads and grandads and yet, they are strategizing, ultimately, breaking international law, knocking out preachers and other motivational speakers. And here they are, telling us about their careers, showing us footage of who they are killing and philosophically contemplating the lack of morality implicit in their actions. They describe the economy of murder, when collateral damage is justified in the time

they have to make up their minds. We watch narrated footage of people reduced to ants, eliminated. It's unpleasant.

So they're Gatekeepers. This means there's a fence, probably the most infamous fence in the world, outside the 38th Parallel. They tell stories of controlling militants on both sides of the war plus stories that reveal that they do not come off smelling of roses. Not at all.

Our boys arrest right-wing extremists in the act of placing bombs on Palestinian buses. They tell the story of how these people did light sentences if that and were often promoted when they returned to their regular lives.

They tell the story of compromising on a 1/4 tonne bomb that was dropped ineffectively on all Palestinian leaders, 'The Dream Team,' in the middle of high population density Gaza. They explain that their targets were not the aggressors but preached ideas that created jihad. They explained their ideological warfare and contemplated the military and security stupidity of overkill.

The film is subtitled. Some speakers wax lyrical about the banality of evil while others laugh that they were

lucky there was an increase in terrorism because it created work in a war with no enemy.

We examine the famous 300 bus hijacking. One of the department heads discuss the fact that if there was no reporter on the scene then no one would know that the terrorists had their heads bashed in with rocks by the army. No one asks for examples of similar things the media didn't know about. Or at least Moreh doesn't bother showing any footage of such a silly question.

They take us through Rabin's successful peace talks with the P.L.O. and the subsequent phenomena of suicide bombing. One wonders why the bombings began when Arafat had shaken hands with Rabin, his P.L.O. leaving the circle of terror. But any pressure on a community that would bring such actions about is not mentioned. We are instead treated to an examination of the "clean and elegant" assassination of Ayyash, a key leader who could, "talk people into committing suicide."

Again, like "WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS" and "JOBS" before them "THE GATEKEEPERS" is a catch up on contemporary history that we've been exposed to on news stations over decades.

There is a very disconcerting beginning as a department head poses an insincere question spearheading their early intelligence days. They needed to find out about Palestinians, what motivated them. Who were they, as if they didn't know?

No one mentions that the Gaza Strip is only the size of five football fields. No one comes to grips with an indigenous population's right to co-exist be on their own land. It doesn't seem to be an issue in a religious debate.

I found myself gobsmacked as they not only pretended they did not understand what motivated the Palestinians, as if they were a different kind of creature that needed to first be understood through intelligence gathering and interrogations, but they boasted their wanted list is the longest of any security organisation in the world, when they probably have every male native resident of Palestine on it.

They fuddled around the fruit of what their policies has brought them. They looked crest fallen when they spoke of the inevitable withdrawal from the West Bank. I despair for a people who are framed as only been left with the power to inflict suffering. It's clear they need power to other activities and representation as people with everyday aspirations identical to our own.

Their Tarik Saleh's "METROPIA" (2009)-like filing bank of intelligence must have detailed all adult conversations describing all political affiliations in Palestine.

Cinema is powerful. What this film shows in these interviews is surprising. Hopefully, it is a transparent (if tinted) tool for peace.

Our documentary takes a very grave tone at the end. The titles role to an adamant piano playing disconcerting and sad music. It's like this whole thing is a head ache. The only time victorious orchestras herald war news is at the beginning over some news footage as it would have appeared in its day. The Yom Kipur War, the hey day of these old warriors. We hear how one leader was disillusioned when he grew out of his idyllic kibbutzim childhood and found there was no one in the office making decisions for him. Another says, "when you retire you become a bit of a leftist." I think they're tired of killing. "We are making the lives of millions of people unbearable." The Palestinians in this saga are framed as a people with only one recourse and that is to make Israeli's suffer. These are people with no means to wage war. Next stop oblivion.

But still these men are not the emotionally fragile creatures of Steven Spielberg's "MUNICH". I heard a

director's commentary that the real Massad agents being played saw the film and laughed all the way through. One can't kill people for a living and be such wrecks. One wonders about the Shin Bet's new sympathies. The idea of being moved by the lack of a decision maker in an office did feel a bit wonky. "THE GATEKEEPERS" seems to be a story of antagonism. If these guys think we'll believe Palestinians are a mystery or that they are only creatures who only inflict suffering, the Shin Bet is having one last tickle. It's the way Loki used the Frost Giants all over again. Still the transparency in their confessions here has brought them miles closer to peace.

I would like to think that this relatively unfettered account of what has happened under their watch is an enormous step towards peace. It's a bit sad that a leader prophesied more Inifada and assassinations. He sees darkness as the legacy Israeli policies have left future generations. Let's hope another Rabin and Arafat materialise out of the debris because, "It's a mess!" - Marty Huggins [Zach Galifianakis in Jay Roach's "THE CAMPAIGN" (2012)].

I don't think we're looking at a block buster but it's an extremely important film. 10/10

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 2013.

Dror Moreh's "THE GATEKEEPERS" (2012)
Release Date 5th September 2013
Category Political Documentary
Running Time 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
Rating M
Origin Israel: Hebrew with English and French subtitles
Awards OFFICIAL SELECTION Toronto International Film Festival 2012, OFFICIAL SELECTION Sundance Film Festival 2013, ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE Best Documentary Feature 2013
Director Dror Moreh
Stars Six former heads of Israelís domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet.

Official Blurb "For the first time ever, six former heads of Israelís domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their
actions and decisions. Since the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has failed to transform its crushing military victory into a lasting peace. Throughout that entire period, these heads of the Shin Bet stood at the centre of Israelís decision-making process in all matters pertaining to security. They worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, and their assessments and insights had Ė and continue to have Ė a profound impact on Israeli policy.

"THE GATEKEEPERS" offers an exclusive account of the sum of their successes and failures. In the process it sheds light on the controversy surrounding the occupation in the aftermath of the Six Day War." - MADMAN ENTERTAINMENT PR

The six gatekeepers clockwise from top left: Avraham Shalom (1980 - 1986), Ami Ayalon (1996 - 2000), Yaakov Peri (1988 - 1995), Yuval Diskin (2005 Ė 2011), Avi Dichter (2000 - 2005) and Carmi Gillon (1994 - 1996) who took ministerial responsiblity and resigned on the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in 1996.
Director: Dror Moreh
Avraham Shalom: SHIN BET 1980 - 1986
Yaakov Peri (1988 - 1995)
Carmi Gillon (1994 - 1996)