The Gatekeepers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 19, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“The Gatekeepers” is a riveting and an explosive documentary. From beginning to end, the shocking personal accounts, its presentation of material to the careful pacing of each topic presented, Dror Moreh’s documentary “The Gatekeepers” is powerful, thought-provoking and highly recommended!
TITLE: The Gatekeepers
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 101 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1, Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Produced by Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky, Dror Moreh
Cinematography by Avner Shahaf
Edited by Oron Adar
Production Design by Doron Koren
The Shin Bet, better known internationally as the Israel Security Agency (ISA) is responsible for protecting Israel from terrorism and taking part in counter-terrorism activities in both Israel and Palestinian territories.
But with the escalating violence between the Israeli and Arab, where a cycle of violence has been rampant as the Shin Bet try to stop terrorism, their methods have also led to the deaths of innocents in surrounding areas and in response, retaliation which would lead to deaths of innocent people in Israel.
While the circle of violence seems to be unending with no sign of peaceful resolve for the Jewish or Palestinian people, the truth is that a lot of the major events in the history of Israel can be tied to the Shin Bet.
In order to give people not just in Israel but all over the world a chance to see how the Shin Bet has operated and their success and failures to Israel’s situations and response to terrorism, director Dror Moreh has created a documentary titled “The Gatekeepers” which interviews six former heads of the Shin Bet, who discuss some of the most troubling situations from their job during their involvement with the Israel Security Agency and how each man feels about their involvement in some of the success and failures in counter-terrorism in the last 40 years.
Taking three years to produce, “The Gatekeepers” was screened at various cinema locations in Israel but also has been screened at various film festivals, earning itself an Academy Award nomination for “Best Documentary”.
A stunning and thought-provoking film, “The Gatekeepers” will give you insight to what happened behind-the-scenes through accounts made by six former heads of the Shin Bet.
“The Gatekeepers” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). Picture quality of the modern interviews look great but as one can expect from a documentary that utilizes archived footage, classic archived footage varies in quality. But for the most part, the presentation of the film and how it looks overall, is done very well. I’m not sure if certain bombing raids or targeted attacks from long distance missiles are actual footage or created by the French visual effects company Mac Guff, but for the most part, I was quite impressed with the amount of archived video and how it was presented for the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Gatekeepers” is presented in Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA. For this documentary, while most of it is front-channel dialogue with the interviews, the film employs special effects that utilize the surround channels, but for the most part, the film is dialogue-driven.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“The Gatekeepers” come with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Commentary by director Droh Moreh.
- Q&A with Director Droh Moreh – (42:23) Droh Moreh talks about the making of the film, his feeling towards the growing conflict and answering questions from the audience.
As Americans, our knowledge of what is happening in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine have been limited to what we read or see from media coverage.
But fortunately, there is cinema that have shown us perspectives of why Israeli and Palestinians are fighting each other. This is not something that has been going on for just decades, this conflict has been ongoing since the late 19th century.
People who are fighting for land (which either side recognizes as their own), their borders, security, water rights and many other reasons. But whenever we see something on the news, it always goes to extremism. One side does this, the other side takes action as retaliation and it repeats itself over and over again.
And as news reports can only give you a certain perspective, not very complete, report on what has happened since the ’60s, filmmaker Dror Moreh explored a perspective that many are not familiar with or knew about and that is the perspective through the Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Service, through the mouths of six former heads of the agency.
We learn about the “Bus 300 Affair”, a 1984 incident where four Arab guerillas from the Gaza Strip hijacked the No. 300 bus from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon with 41 passengers. The Israel military pursued the bus and shot the tires in which the bus stopped and in the stand off, two of them died and two Palestinian bus hijackers were captured. The two hijackers were seen with the Israeli military, alive and well. But Shin Bet Chief Avraham Shalom authorized the execution of the two terrorists.
The problem was that the Israeli military censor blacked out the coverage of the hijacking, but Hadashot photojournalst Alex Levac was able to take a photo of the hijacker fully alive and conscious. But it caused an uproar by the Israeli public of how the hijackers were killed.
In “The Gatekeeers”, Dror Moreh questions the morality of the decision made by Avraham Shalom to execute them. Why he gave the command but also inside knowledge of what took place is revealed through this interview. What I found very disturbing in someways, was how Shalom reacted. It was rather nonchalant and almost amoral, but in his mind, he saw it as executing terrorists that would have caused even more problems for the Israeli people and the shin Bet was about protecting their country.
With that being said, we see Shalom’s mindset, but also the mindset of other former Shin Bet heads who worked for him and how they felt about him. That was rather interesting to see. But despite Shalom not wanting to answer the questions at first, fortunately for this film, Dror Moreh was able to get much out of him.
We know that Shalom resigned for the incident and the cover-up but learn the political connection with the Shin Bet. How political officials made many questionable calls that led to the deaths of innocents.
Back in 1993, one hoped for peace with the Oslo Accords in which Israeli officials led by Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat strived for peace. But because of this, violence was still taking place and within Israel, the Shin Bet now had to worry about the growing discontent and extremism with the Jewish Underground, who carried out terror attacks on Palestinian officials. And how their plan was to destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
But it was interesting for me to see the discontent of these individuals towards Prime Minister/Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then the assassination of Rabin by religious Zionist Yigal Amir, who opposed Rabin’s peace initiative. Another failure within the Shin Bet who couldn’t protect him from being killed, but through “The Gatekeepers”, how it failed but also how they tried to get Rabin to wear a bulletproof vest. But the truth was that the Shin Bet had the killer Amir under surveillance but stopped because they felt he was no threat to the PM’s life.
The film also goes into the Second Intifada which began in late Sept. 2000 and ended in 2005, the assassination of Yahya Ayyash and other prominent Hamas militants and the film goes into the mindset of each Shin Bet head about their thoughts on collateral damage (for example, getting faulty intel which leads to the bombing of a wrong building), the use of torture (how one man died when his head was shaken to hard) and the morality of targeted assassination (there is interesting discussion of how one man was assassinated through the use of a cel phone).
The information provided by each of the former heads of the Shin Bet are shocking, thought provoking but it’s their feelings of what is to happen in their area and how they feel about their former job and politicians. When you watch “The Gatekeepers”, the use of tactics by the Shin Bet and their reasoning, will no doubt surprise you.
And I often wonder what kind of implications will come out of this film. Positive or negative, the fact is that Dror Moreh was able to create a film and get out information from each of these former head of the Shin Bet. These men gave intelligence information that I wonder how the Israeli government felt that certain incidents and thoughts behind them, now the public will know why.
As Moreh said in an interview with the LA Times, “I knew I had dynamite in my hands” after his interviews with the men.
While, the interviews are what set the tone in the film, Moreh was able to use archive footage and computer-generated imagery to make photography of that era come alive. The video and photo footage is able to give people the visual means to process what these men are talking about and how destructive these incidents were.
You actually get to see live footage of people being targeted and assassinated using long range missiles or 1-ton bombs.
As for the Blu-ray, picture quality of the film is very good. Like most documentaries, archived video will have different levels of quality but for the interviews and most of the presentation throughout the film, picture quality is good. Use of sound effects is also well-employed through the 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The special features including the audio commentary, especially the 42-minute Q&A with Dror Moreh is fascinating to watch, as the filmmaker gives his feelings towards the conflict and is much bleaker than how the former heads of Shin Bet felt in the interview.
Overall, “The Gatekeepers” is a riveting and an explosive documentary. From beginning to end, the shocking personal accounts, its presentation of material to the careful pacing of each topic presented, Dror Moreh’s documentary “The Gatekeepers” is powerful, thought-provoking and highly recommended!
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