VOD film review: The Gatekeepers
Ivan Radford | On 15, Aug 2013
Director: Dror Moreh
Cast: Aml Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Avi Dichter, Carmi Gillon
Watch online: blinkbox
The unseen shield. That’s the motto of the Shin Bet, Israeli’s security service. Committed to being invisible and shrouded in secrecy, the group has been directing Israel’s intelligence and military operations for decades. Dror Moreh, then, must be some kind of super spy. Goodness knows what the director’s got on them, but whatever it is, it’s enough to get the surviving former heads of the Shin Bet to talk to him on camera. All six of them.
“We make the lives of millions unbearable,” says Carmi Gillon, the organisation’s head from 1994 to 1996. The others are equally candid, outlining in detail the group’s actions and strategies from the Six-Day War in 1967 right up to the present.
It’s an astonishing insight into the workings of an intelligence force – one that’s still engaged in conflict today. From torture and the Occupied Zone to recruitment and past operations gone wrong, the six figures talk to the camera with an engaging honesty, pieced together superbly by Moreh with archive footage and CGI sequences. The occasional digital insert has an eerie Call of Duty vibe – perhaps more a reflection of the way we consume war as entertainment than the film’s own attitudes – but the director never dresses anything up, avoiding political bias or flashy techniques to present a no-frills look at a thorny world of unseen power and uncomfortable morals.
At times, the subjects seem almost relieved to get things off their chest. “It’s a trait of a professional intelligence operative to talk to everyone,” they observe, one of many comments that feel even more pertinent as the West’s standoff with North Korea continues.
“Those moments end up etched deep down inside you. You become a bit of a leftist,” adds another. As much a fascinating behind-the-scenes exploration of another country’s secret service as it is a timely psychological and philosophical discussion of international security, The Gatekeepers is a provocative documentary that shows that you can’t make peace by military means – and that even those on the inside realise it. Nobody walks away unscathed. Extraordinary.