By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Every year there’s always one film nominated in a major Oscar category that normal, non-NY/LA lizard people just can’t give a watch through any means. In 2013, that movie was Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers.
This film is simple, really. It sits down with all six surviving members of the Shin Bet, Israel’s most exclusive and secretive security agency, as they recount the last 65 years of Israeli/Palestinian relations and their part in shaping (and in many ways, failing to prevent the shaping) of the world as it is today.
For all of its simplicity, The Gatekeepers is some powerful stuff. Much like Errol Morris’s seminal work, The Fog of War, we skip the talking heads and the third party analysts and go straight to the source of the controversial decisions that changed history. And just like Robert S. McNamara from that film, we got a surprisingly candid (and at times, despicably, skin-crawlingly so) font of information.
The one most interesting takeaway for me from this film was that even the most self-admittedly ruthless of these men feel that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was a mistake, and continues to be one. These men have all clearly taken an inventory of themselves and the actions of the regimes they worked for, and have formed almost unbelievably balanced opinions about them. One even comes out and admits that this conflict may come down to a matter of perspective, saying “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
Although they, and anyone with an ounce of humanity, agree that this can’t be condoned
The other piece of history that I was unaware of that this film shed light on was how the Shin Bet was literally beset on all sides, not only having to deal with Palestinian terrorists, but Israeli ones. One plot that got frighteningly close to completion would have blown up the Dome of the Rock mosque with hundreds of worshippers inside it. I shudder to think what the fallout would have been if they had succeeded.
Probably actual Fallout
As far as the production of the documentary goes, the interviews are supplemented with a variety of stock footage, chilling, not for the faint of heart still images, and even a few 3-D renderings of photographs that were an interesting touch. I also have to mention the score, which provided an unsettling but perfectly fit complement to the film.
While I understand why the filmmakers made the film as they did, if you don’t know who Shimon Peres or Golda Meir are, you may find a significant informational barrier to entry when watching this. To really get the most out of it, you should read up a bit on Israel and Palestine first if you’re only slightly familiar with the conflict, or I guess throw back this beer and see what happens.
A chilling, rewarding documentary that is a must-see for anyone seeking a full education on one of the most far-reaching conflicts of our times.
Take a Drink: whenever a politician is bad-mouthed
Take a Drink: for every missile strike or bombing
Take a Drink: whenever your skin begins to crawl
Do a Shot: Infitada!