Film Review: Oscar Nominee ‘The Gatekeepers’ is Truth to Power
CHICAGO – Normal job justification makes most people defensive. Imagine justifying an anti-terrorist organization. What weapons – besides the physical variety – would be available to you? Fear, jingoism and marginalizing of the “other” are a few of the defensives used by “The Gatekeepers.”
Nominated for a Oscar on Sunday, “The Gatekeepers” is a soul project by director Dror Moreh. He goes inside the “Shin Bet,” the Israeli anti-terrorist organization famous for its power and secrecy. In tracing their history and methodologies, he interviews six of its high level ex-directors. Their fearless insight into “justifying their jobs” within the organization becomes a lesson in the immorality of punishment without law. Organizations like Shin Bet, or Homeland Security or even the CIA create their own rule of law, which begets questionable torture, shadow paranoia and a loss of any innocence in achieving the peace.
Shin Bet was formed after the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. First used as a counter-intelligence agency, its power increased after the Six-Day War in 1967. It evolved into a anti-terrorist organization, monitoring the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Focusing the attention on getting information, Shin Bet has been on the hot seat regarding methods of prisoner interrogation and use of information.
“The Gatekeepers” was inspired by the Errol Morris documentary, “The Fog of War.” In that famous film, Robert McNamara – the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the VietNam war – admitted his sins in justifying his job. Dror Moreh takes the same approach in interviewing the ex-directors of Shin Bet. How did they justify their jobs? What mistakes in strategy were made? How does the anti-terrorist operation in Israel step over the line of morality?
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics