Cinema review: The Gatekeepers

By Chris Bailey

The Gatekeepers is now showing at Manchester’s Cornerhouse – get your tickets here.

There are very dark secrets hidden among an agency tasked with protecting the interests of one of the most controversial states in the world – in Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers, much is laid bare.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is soaked in the bitterest kind of hatred which keeps a revolving wheel of violence in full, unrelenting flow.

With The Gatekeepers, Moreh – in an effort most others would dare not dream of – rounds up all surviving former heads of Israel’s internal security organisation, Shin Bet, to document their efforts in towing the grey line of morality.

Bus bombings, mortar strikes and even presidential assassination threats from their own people – all six men have faced challenges which make the current economic crisis look like frivolity.

They are hardened but clearly care deeply about ending civilian lives, hesitating to pull the trigger finger even if it should prevent a moment of terror for Israel.

The problem, one of them states at the start of the documentary, is that the politicians they serve want only ‘binary solutions’. Kill or not to kill.

Ultimately, the ramifications of each counter-terrorism ‘measure’ serves only to fuel Palestinian hatred, while refusing to act ignites domestic violence – a case of Catch-22.

The former heads appear as sages, recognising the nuances of each ethical dilemma and yearning for a better future. Ultimately, however, they all conclude it is set to get worse.

Prior knowledge of the conflict is useful but not essential. And aside for some snazzy – if slightly insensitive – graphics, there is little to keep your visual attention apart from often harrowing stock footage.

But if you’re a history buff or just vaguely interested in delving more into an embittered history, The Gatekeepers will illuminate the conflict in a way which you’ve never seen before.

The Gatekeepers is now showing at Manchester’s Cornerhouse – get your tickets here.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics/Dror Moreh Productions.

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